Abp. Justin Welby addresses the Council of the Wise in Abu Dhabi
Photo courtesy of the Muslim Council of Elders

Adapted from Gavin Drake, ACNS

The Archbishop of Canterbury led a delegation of Anglican leaders to a Muslim Council of Elders meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The elders met to discuss integration, religious freedom, and flourishing societies.

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In his keynote address to the conference, Archbishop Justin Welby praised Abu Dhabi for having “taken practical steps to enable religious minorities to meet, teach, worship, and express themselves.”

“It shows a confidence in granting freedom and a self-confidence which is fitting and proper. We can only be grateful for the clear thinking expressed here,” he said.

Welby thanked Abu Dhabi’s authorities for their support of St. Andrew’s Anglican Church. “It is to the credit of the authorities and government here that Christian worship has been allowed to flourish and grow, and we thank you again,” he said. “I am concerned that this is becoming the exception rather than the rule though in many parts of the world.”

Abp. Welby said the Church of England is “at the forefront of advocating the rights of Muslim communities to establish schools, madrassahs, and mosques across the country.”

“We have established and participated in faiths forums where the collective voice of faith communities in a largely secular society, can be heard more clearly. It is a cause for celebration that faith communities play such a vibrant role in every [stratum] of British life and society,” he said. “But the increasing integration of Muslim communities within British society, in which we rejoice, is in stark contrast to the increasing marginalization of and outright hostility to Christian communities within many parts of the world, not least in significant parts of the Middle East.”

The Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, was unable to travel to Abu Dhabi, but in a written speech he stressed that all human beings are part of one family and all are made in the image of God. Shunila Ruth, a member of the Anglican Consultative Council from the Church of Pakistan delivered the speech on his behalf.

“All human beings have one God, their Creator; one father, Adam; and one mother, Eve,” his speech said. “I believe the plight of modernity could begin to heal if human beings remembered their common origins.

“Human beings did not appear on this earth by their own will. Rather, someone else willed that human beings inhabit earth. Someone else prepared the earth and sun in perfect balance to make life possible. I believe if people were to recall this simple fact, they would proceed in the right direction.”

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