(Photo: REUTERS/Alessandra Tarantino/Pool)
Citing the recent Pakistan church bombings and violence against Syrian Christians as an example, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby asserted this week that "Christians have been attacked simply because of their faith."
"I think it is true in Peshawar that we have seen more than 80 martyrs in the last few days and they have been attacked because they were testifying to their faith in Jesus Christ by going to church, and that is outside any acceptable expression in any circumstances for any reason of religious difference," he said on BBC Radio's The World at One, as he gave an update on the various challenges confronting Christians around the world.
The archbishop called the Peshawar church bombing that killed over 80 Pakistanis on Sunday "an absolutely appalling attack."
He also said that he believes the government must do more to protect its Christians.
"One of the things that we've calling on and we've all been saying and the Christians in Pakistan have been particuarly saying is the Pakistan government has a duty to protect all its citizens, both the majority and minority and we do call on them to make sure that the minority citizens are properly protected," he said.
The Archbishop also accused Pakistan's blasphemy laws of being used as "an excuse to attack minorities."
Despite the recent hardships of Coptic Christians in southern Egypt, the archbishop said that the situation of Christians had "stabilized" in Egypt recently. He also asserted that despite the recent persecution that Egyptian Christians have faced, he is not worried that they will disappear from the country.
"There have been Christians in Egypt for 1,500 years as a minority community and through great troubles and trials and they've always survived - and in the love and grace of God, I think they will," he said.
Welby also addressed the plight of Syrian Christians, who he said were "under enormous pressure" and "caught in the middle of a terrible civil war."
"There is no doubt that Christian communities have been targeted," said the archbishop. "This is absolutely unacceptable….It is not acceptable to attack people because of their faith and to use religion as an excuse for violence is simply to take the complexity of social and historic issues and find a hook to hang them on."
Welby said he was relieved to see a potential Syrian military threat be worked out through diplomacy.
"I believe there are occasions when an armed response in a police reaction is necessary," said Welby, who also indicated that he was not a pacifist. "Violence is only the absolute last resort and must always be the last result and when it will accomplish something useful to reduce the total scale of violence in a war."
Welby also reminded Christians to emulate Christ's response to his enemies.
"As Christians, one of the things is we pray for justice and particularly around the issues the anger that comes when there's this type of killing," said Welby. "But we're also called as Jesus did on the cross, to pray for those who are doing us harm."