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Opinion
Last Updated: October 19, 2010
Canterbury Archbishop Rowan Williamsí Memorable Visit to India
By A U Asif

Known more for his Shariah remarks in an exclusive lecture on “Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective” delivered at Royal Courts of Justice UK on February 7, 2008, Dr Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the 77-million-member Anglican Communion worldwide, also drew attention for expressing views on the September 30 Allahabad High Court Ayodhya verdict and other issues during his 16-day visit to India at the invitation of the Communion of Churches since October 9, 2010.

Remarks on Ayodhya Verdict

Expressing satisfaction that the recent Ayodhya verdict was received calmly by the people of India, he said that it was time for people to “move on” now. Speaking to media-persons at an interactive session organized on October 9 by the Diocese of Kolkata (Church of North India), he said that he had been closely following the discussions and debates that preceded and followed the verdict.

“I am relieved that there is a resolution without violence. It is a complicated story but I hope that the people move on henceforth,” the Archbishop said.

Asked if there was any legal birthplace of Jesus Christ akin to Lord Rama's, as pronounced by the Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court in the Ayodhya case, he answered in the negative. “As far back as we can trace, it seems that Jesus Christ had taken birth somewhere in Bethlehem but there never has been any legal place of birth,” the Archbishop asserted.

Reacting on Dr Rowan Williams’ remarks, Torey Lightcap in DCNY, a website of news and opinion about the Anglican Church in North America and Worldwide, said on October 12.

“It's novel, and maybe a bit refreshing, to hear Williams answer a simple question with a simple answer. But equally novel, and happy chance perhaps, that he was hospitably asked to parse aloud the difference between a "legal birthplace" for Jesus versus - what? - any other kind, we guess.

“And just to overdraw a bit further on our political capital, it also seems noteworthy given an Anglican Covenant being commended for study by Williams's office as the outcome of a legally minded process in which we're being asked to parse the difference between an efficient and officious Communion versus - well, the other, sloppier kind. The kind that may not hold up in court because clauses and conditions weren't met, and for which no excuses would be deemed acceptable. One wonders how the judge in such a case would split up the land, and to whom it would be given.”

Attacks on Christians

He expressed his concern about the attacks on Christians in some parts of India and said that he would raise the issue with leaders of other communities.

“I am as concerned about the attacks on Christians as I would have been about attacks on any other community. Even many prominent Hindus had condemned those attacks. I know that this is not what India is as a civilization, as a modern State,” he observed.

India’s Plural Secularist Model

Meanwhile, he also said India's religious pluralism can be a model to European countries which are currently deadlocked between bids for theocracy and efforts to completely privatize faith.

"The plural Secularist model of India is not a bad model for the Western European societies who are looking to get out of a deadlock, " he told reporters before delivering the Chevening lecture "Pluralism and the dialogue of religions" at the British Council in New Delhi on October 15. In his lecture the Archbishop said: "India has consistently tried to define a secularism that is not hostile to multiple religious identities."

"Religion in the West has become a matter of private choice... People see only alternative as either theocracy or secularism, both I think are bad," he said. In his lecture quoting Nehru, the Archbishop said, the success or otherwise of India's capacity to manage interconnected differences will have significance well beyond India's borders." He argues in favour of a “careful and attentive interaction between communities of religious practice."

Dr Rowan Williams proposed a political pluralism which he described as an "argumentative democracry" and a religious pluralism which both acknowledged the reality of history but also "that there are dimensions of [religious] identity that we create as well as inherit”.

Her theologian wife Jane Williams, who was born and spent her early years in Thiruvananthapuram, was accompanying him.

(With inputs from reports appearing in agencies and newspapers)

---A U Asif, Editor, www.fanawatch.com, can be reached at au_asif@yahoo.co.in

Also See
Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams’ Profile
Text of Canterbury Archbishop Dr Rowan Williams's Lecture on “Civil and Religious Law in England: A Religious Perspective” at Royal Courts of Justice UK on February 7, 2008

 


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