NEW DELHI – The head of the worldwide Anglican Communion has expressed concern over the increase in violence against Christian minorities in India.
On his visit to Kolkatta on Saturday, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams said he would speak with leaders of other religious communities urging them to shun violence and promote peace.
"I am as concerned about the attacks on Christians as I would have been about attacks on people of other communities," stated the Anglican leader while interacting with the press.
Williams said the attacks were contrary to India as a "civilization, culture and a modern state."
On Saturday, the archbishop officially commenced his 16-day visit to India for the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Church of North India (CNI).
In Kolkatta, Williams spoke at an event in his honor that was attended by West Bengal State Governor M.K. Narayanan, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Archbishop of Kolkata Ashoke Biswas and British Deputy High Commissioner Sanjay Wadhwan.
"Since long I have wished to visit Calcutta after having known of its history. As a student I remember being inspired by the work for the poor here," he said at the CNI-hosted event.
Williams later visited the Missionaries of Charity global headquarters and also interacted with orphaned children at Shishu Bhavan.
"The joy that was evident there, I believe, is a response to something very deep in the whole life of this city, not only today but through the ages," The Telegraph quoted him saying after his visit to the Mother House. "Calcutta is known as the City of Joy so it's very moving to see that joy and love at work."
Commenting on the recent Allahabad High Court ruling on the disputed land in Ayodhya, the archbishop told reporters that he had been closely following the debates and discussions on the verdict, which divided land between the three feuding parties – one-third of the land to the Islam-based Sunni Waqf Board and two-thirds of the land divided equally between the two Hindu groups, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha and the Nirmohi Akhara.
The Church of England cleric said he was relieved that there was a resolution without violence considering how riots over the land resulted in 2,000 deaths in 1992. "I'm glad to see that the way it was received was very peaceful," he remarked.
On Tuesday, the archbishop was scheduled to leave for Ranchi, where a banquet and public reception was being arranged. The following day, Williams will hold a holy communion at the 140-year-old St Paul's Cathedral at Bahubazar.
Williams, who is the highest-ranking non-royal in the United Kingdom's order of precedence as well as the Primate (chief bishop) of All England, will visit Nagpur on Oct. 13 for the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Church of North India.