Rowan Williams clarifies controversial comments

Former Archbishop of Canterbury and Master of Magdalene College Rowan Williams has sought to clarify a comment he made earlier this month that western Christians complaining about their persecution should "grow up". He has apologised for any offence his words might have caused for those who are bullied for their religious convictions.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Williams had said that he was "very uneasy" about frequent claims made by British and American Christians that they were being "persecuted". He said persecution was something suffered by those Christians facing "murderous hostility" in other parts of the world, and did not include being "made to feel uncomfortable".

"When you have had contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word persecuted very chastely", he said.

Writing to the Guardian last Sunday, Williams explained that his original comment was aimed to counter "sensationalised accounts" of the situation of Christians in the West, but also admitted that his words might have been poorly chosen.

Williams' comments come in the wake of an attack on the Prime Minister made by his predecessor as Archbishop Lord Carey, who claimed that Cameron has done more than any other recent political leader to feed Christian anxieties that they are part of a persecuted minority. Lord Carey suggested that Christians were increasingly subjected to persecution by gay marriage activists and an increasingly secularised society.

Williams, whose campaign against the persecution of Christians included handing a 'dossier' of abuse to President Robert Mugabe during a visit as Archbishop to Zimbabwe, has sought to separate cases of real repression from the situation in the West. Whilst defending the public role of the Church against champions of secularisation, Rowan Williams has also argued that the cry of persecution should not be used to shy away from the robust debate such public engagement requires.

Discussing same-sex marriages at the festival, Williams also admitted that a "great many" of his gay and lesbian friends would say he let them down during his time as Archbishop.

Harry Dadswell

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest