Archbishop: Massacred Christians are martyrs

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers his sermon during the Easter Day service at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby delivers his sermon during the Easter Day service at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent

The 150 Kenyans who were killed three days ago are martyrs, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said in his Easter Sunday sermon.

Because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the cruel are overcome, evil is defeated, and martyrs conquer, the Most Rev Justin Welby told the congregation in Canterbury Cathedral.

The Archbishop said Christians must resist without violence the persecution they suffer and support persecuted communities, with love and goodness and generosity.

And he said: “To witness is to be a martyr. I am told by the Coptic Bishop in England that the Coptic Christians murdered in Libya last month died proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord. They are martyrs, a word that means both one that dies for their faith and one that witnesses to faith.

“There have been so many martyrs in the last year. On Maundy Thursday, three days ago, around 150 Kenyans were killed because of being Christian. They are witnesses, unwilling, unjustly, wickedly, and they are martyrs in both senses of the word.”

• Pope Francis, presiding at the traditional Good Friday Colosseum procession, condemned the “complicit silence” about the killing of Christians.

The evening, torch-lit ceremony at the ancient arena recalls the suffering and death of Jesus by crucifixion. The pope listened silently, often with head bowed and eyes tightly shut, to reflections read aloud about Jesus’ suffering.

He then spoke of what lately has been an urgent concern of his papacy – the present-day martyrdom of Christians in parts of the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.

“We see, even today, our brothers persecuted, beheaded and crucified, for their faith in you, in front of our eyes or often with our complicit silence,” he said, as he prayed.

Meanwhile, in an Easter message which urged Britain to “feel proud to say this is a Christian country”, David Cameron has hailed the Church as a “living active force doing great works” for the poor and homeless.

As the pace of general election campaigning slowed to mark the occasion, the Prime Minister also joined condemnation of the persecution of Christians across the globe. In his video message the Prime Minister, who has defended the right of the Church to intervene in political debate, said Easter was “time to reflect on the part that Christianity plays in our national life.

“The Church is not just a collection of beautiful old buildings; it is a living, active force doing great works across our country,” he said.

“When people are homeless, the Church is there with hot meals and shelter. When people are addicted or in debt; when people are suffering, or grieving – the Church is there.”

“Across Britain, Christians don’t just talk about ‘loving thy neighbour’, they live it out ... in faith schools, in prisons, in community groups.

“And it’s for all these reasons that we should feel proud to say: this is a Christian country.

“Yes, we are a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none but we are still a Christian country.”