[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has made a solidarity visit to Pakistan to meet victims of anti-Christian terror attacks. During his visit the Archbishop met local Christians at St Thomas Church in Islamabad and Christ Church, Youhanabad. He met survivors of the 2013 Peshawar church bombings and the 2015 Youhanabad bombs – both Christians and Muslims. The visit – the first time any Archbishop of Canterbury has visited Pakistan more than once – was hosted by the moderator of the Church of Pakistan, Bishop Samuel Azariah, who today praised the Archbishop for his visit.
“He was determined to visit Pakistan," Bishop Azariah said. "He was advised not to attend the church in Islamabad but he said that he would go there and as an Archbishop visiting a province how could he not go to the church and not meet his people.
“So we want to thank him from the depth of our heart. We are grateful to the Communion for thinking of us and praying for us, for a church which is struggling, for a church which is marginalised, for a church which comes under suffering, but a church which lives with hope – with hope in God’s great grace.”
In addition to meeting the survivors of terror attacks, during the two-day visit Archbishop Welby met with children, young people, theological students and government officials, including the Prime Minister’s foreign affairs adviser, Mr Sartaj Aziz, “to discuss freedom of religion and protection of religious minorities in the country, as well as to hear of the suffering of so many of the people of Pakistan in the struggle against terrorism,” Lambeth Palace said in a statement.
But the primary purpose of the visit, Bishop Azariah said, was to meet the victims of terror. “He had special services with the families. He prayed with them, he talked with them, he encouraged them, and he brought to them a message of assurance of hope and of the love of Jesus. He reminded the Christians of Pakistan . . . that Pakistan was remembered on a daily basis in the prayers at Lambeth.
“The Christians and the Church of Pakistan are especially grateful to the Archbishop to make this special visit to Pakistan. This not only indicates his love for Pakistan but also indicates the priority he gives to the Province of Pakistan on the agenda of the Communion.
“During his visit, the bishops of the Church of Pakistan assured the Archbishop that their commitment and their prayer for the Communion, and its strength and growth, will always be there. . . It is our prayer that the Lord will bless the Communion, the Lord will give wisdom, and will continue to protect and guide our brother Justin as he leads the Communion in challenging and difficult times facing the world today.
“We live in a complicated situation. Not only is it complicated but it is complex. May God give wisdom to all of us to live up to our faith in love, in care and in tolerance. God bless us all,” the moderator said.
The Church of Pakistan is a united church which brings together Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans. In addition to being a member of the Anglican Communion, the Church of Pakistan is also a member of the world Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Methodist Council.
Photos: Lambeth Palace and the Diocese of Raiwind
- This article was corrected on 22 November 2016 after it emerged that the Archbishop of Canterbury did not act contrary to British government advice when he travelled to Pakistan.