The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has led a delegation of Anglican leaders to the Muslim Council of Elders at a meeting in Abu Dhabi. The meeting, dubbed the Council of the Wise, was held to discuss integration, religious freedom and flourishing societies, and was the continuation of a series of meetings that began in 2002.
The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, was unable to travel to Abu Dhabi, but in a speech – delivered for him by Mrs. Shunila Ruth, a member of the Anglican Consultative Council from the Church of Pakistan – he stressed that all human beings were part of one family; and that all were made in the image of God.
“All human beings have One God, their Creator, one father – Adam – and one mother, Eve,” he 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.
“The One who willed human existence has perfect knowledge of humanity and its strengths and weaknesses. I believe if humans recognised this, they would obey the One to whom they owe their existence.
“If people were to realise they all trace back to the same parents, then racism, ethnic superiority, and exploitation would end. Siblings would stop fighting and killing each other. Siblings would realise their common Creator and be conscious of Him, and give their ‘kin’ their due rights. Human beings would not divide themselves into casts and classes. Human beings would not let race, skin colour, or national origin determine superiority.
“God lays out the social fabric of human society, which lies in the family. God could have created multiple families instead of Adam and Eve in the beginning, but He chose to create Adam and Eve, and spread humanity from their seed.”
Quoting from both the Bible and the Qur’an, Dr Idowu-Fearon argued that “Muslim and Christian leaders have to accept that there is no alternative to a policy of co-operation and toleration.”
He continued: “Politicians have to be persuaded that this is so and national policies need to be put in place to encourage this and to foster toleration and co-operation. Rather than the secular state which has been repudiated, we need to establish practices that ensure the non-politicisation of religion.”
He argued for the rights of non-Muslims in Muslim-majority countries, and said: “If we are committed to the full participation of non-Muslims in national life, this affirmation calls for a new revision of rights and obligations of those who have been traditionally called and treated as dhimmiyin [“protected persons”] and ought to be treated as co-citizens.”
In his keynote address to the conference, Archbishop Welby praised Abu Dhabi for having “taken practical steps to enable religious minorities to meet, teach, worship and express themselves.”
He said: “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 also thanked the authorities in Abu Dhabi for their support for 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,” Archbishop Justin said, adding. “I am concerned that this is becoming the exception rather than the rule though in many parts of the world.”
He cited the example of the Church of England which was, he said, “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 strata of British life and society.
“But the increasing integration of Muslim communities within British society, in which we rejoice, is in stark contrast to the increasing marginalisation of and outright hostility to Christian communities within many parts of the world, not least in significant parts of the Middle East.”
He continued: “The challenge then is for all of us at this conference to make some serious progress in establishing not just the theological foundations for flourishing and integrated societies where freedom of religion and belief is a given, but to go much further and to establish practical steps to ensure this happens in the societies and countries we represent and live in.”
- Click here to read the full text of Archbishop Welby’s speech.