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Archbishop of Canterbury - Copyright Heathcliff O'Malley/REX
World News

Justin Welby set for pastoral visit to Christians in India

Following a visit to Sri Lanka to stand in solidarity with Christians and victims of the Easter bombings, Justin Welby will be travelling to India on the 31st August to visit Kottayam, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Medak, Jabalpur, Kolkata and Amritsar.

The main focus of Mr Welby's visit will be to listen to the concerns of local Christians across the Church and provide pastoral encouragement and prayer as he visits believers and outreach projects serving diverse communities across the country.

Among his engagements, Mr Welby will visit Jabalpur in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh 'to learn about a minority Christian community that is a force for good in wider society", as he attends the opening of a Christian-run rural school.

Mr Welby is also expected to visit the Henry Martin Institute in Hyderabad - a specialist centre for inter-religious studies, to deliver an address on Christian prayer to religious leaders from Hindu, Muslim, Sikh backgrounds, together with various Christian denominations, to encourage discussion on religious diversity and the benefits of learning together.

A pilgrimage to the site of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre - where thousands of unarmed Indians were shot by British troops, has also been planned to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the tragedy.

According to Lambeth Palace, Justin Welby is the first Archbishop to visit the site.

Speaking of the event, Lambeth stated: "We regard this with real soberness, as a moment for recognising some of the sins of our history, in order to move forward with good will and mutual flourishing."

According to freedom charity Open Doors, Christians are facing increasing levels of persecution across India, since President Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party came into power five years ago. When asked whether the Archbishop will address the actions of the current government on his visit, Lambeth Palace stated that Mr Welby will be attending the country as a church leader, not a political leader, to listen to the experiences of local Christians first and foremost and will encourage the government to uphold the law to protect freedom of religion of belief.

"The constitution of India gives freedom of religion and belief to all groups and the responsibility of all leaders, both political and religious, to affirm and implement what is already there in the constitution."

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