Anglican leader focuses on persecuted

THE leader of the world’s Anglicans urges people today to remember those across the globe who face persecution because of their Christian faith, in his Christmas Day sermon.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams will say Christians who are suffering because of their beliefs would be helped through the knowledge they have not been forgotten.

“We may feel powerless to help; yet we should also know that people in such circumstances are strengthened simply by knowing they have not been forgotten,” Archbishop Williams will say, according to extracts of the address released in advance.

“And if we find we have time to spare for joining in letter-writing campaigns for all prisoners of conscience, [rights groups] Amnesty International and Christian Solidarity worldwide will have plenty of opportunities for us to make use of.”

Delivering the sermon at the cathedral in Canterbury, southeast England, he will cite a number of countries where Christians are suffering, including Iraq and Zimbabwe.

In Iraq, Christians are “facing more and more extreme violence from fanatics,” says Archbishop Williams.

Security measures have been stepped up after al-Qaeda threats against Christians in the country.

On October 31, militants laid siege to Baghdad’s Our Lady of Salvation church, leaving 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security forces personnel dead in an attack claimed by al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq.

Ten days later, attacks targeting the homes of Christians in Baghdad killed six people and wounded 33 others.

“I remind you of our Zimbabwean friends, still suffering harassment, beatings and arrests, legal pressures and lockouts from their churches,” Archbishop Williams also says.

Archbishop Williams, the spiritual leader of more than 70 million Anglicans worldwide, mentions the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother-of-five in Pakistan sentenced to death for defaming the Prophet Mohammed.

“Our prayers continue for [Asia Bibi] in Pakistan and others from minority groups who suffer from the abuse of the law by certain groups there,” he will say.

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