Archbishop of Canterbury apologises for not meeting Bethlehem pastor over pro-Palestinian rally concerns 

The Catholic Herald

February 29, 2024 at 11:05 am

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a public apology for declining to meet a Bethlehem-based pastor during a UK visit earlier this year over concerns about such a meeting happening against the backdrop of the Gaza conflict. 

Archbishop Justin Welby cancelled plans to meet Lutheran pastor Munther Isaac in the latter half of February 2024, explaining he could not meet the pastor if he shared a platform with the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at a pro-Palestinian rally, reports the Guardian

“Recently I declined to meet with Rev Dr [Munther Isaac] during his UK visit,” the archbishop Tweeted on 29 Feb. “I apologise for and deeply regret this decision, and the hurt, anger, and confusion it caused. I was wrong not to meet with my brother in Christ from the Holy Land, especially at this time of profound suffering for our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters. I look forward to speaking and praying with him next week.”

Isaac, the pastor of the Christmas Evangelical Lutheran church in Bethlehem, has been highly critical of Israel in Gaza, the Guardiannotes. His Christmas sermon went viral when he said that if Jesus Christ was born today it would have been under the rubble.

During his visit to the UK, the pastor spoke at a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign rally where Jeremy Corbyn was also a speaker, after being invited by Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK. 

Welby’s defenders, the Guardiannotes, would argue the archbishop has spoken out strongly about Gaza, but that he also has to consider the impact on other communities. Most obviously this includes the huge increase in antisemitism since October 2023 occurring in the UK. 

“In the current climate of wokery and anti-wokery, of critical race theory, anticolonialism and all that, Jews are seen as the embodiment of whatever is causing problems – and therefore as legitimate targets of abuse, mostly verbal but occasionally physical, a convenient simplification to make the world a less frustrating place,” Peter Oppenheimer, a retired Oxford academic and former President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, recently told the Catholic Herald. 

It is believed the archbishop feared his meeting with the pastor could cause problems for Britain’s Jewish community, the Guardian says. 

During Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader, the party was dogged with accusations of antisemitism being rife among some members, with Corbyn being heavily criticised for not taking a clearer stand on the problem. 

But that has not been enough to save the archbishop from finding himself lambasted for his decision not to meet the pastor, it appears, amid ongoing concerns about the situation in Gaza for its tiny Christian minority

“The small Christian community in Gaza has discovered what is hell on earth,” Isaac told the Guardian. “Most of them have lost their homes: 45 destroyed completely and 55 partially destroyed. There is no life left for them. This war will most likely bring an end to Christian life in Gaza. Everyone wants to leave.

“It is so painful for us to see the Christian church turn a blind eye to what is happening, offering words of concern and compassion, but for so long they have been silent in the face of obvious war crimes. Churches seem paralysed, and they seem willing to sacrifice the Christian presence in Palestine for the sake of avoiding controversy and not criticising Israel. I have had so many difficult conversations with church leaders.”

The Catholic Church has faced similar criticism and a similar quandary to the Church of England in navigating the conflicting interests in the war in Gaza, with the Jewish community criticising the Vatican’s stance and messaging both on the conflict in general and on Israel’s right to defend itself.

The Palestinian Ambassador to the Holy See recently met with the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States to discuss the ongoing war in Gaza. The Palestinian envoy praised the Pope’s appeals for peace in Gaza and for statements made by other senior Vatican officials on the war, and for the “relentless” efforts of the Holy See to push for a lasting peace in the Holy Land.


About Admin

Youth's poetry ignites my quest, Against oppression, I protest. In Palestine's struggle, voices rise, For freedom, peace, justice, my cries.
This entry was posted in Justice, UK and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Archbishop of Canterbury apologises for not meeting Bethlehem pastor over pro-Palestinian rally concerns 

  1. David says:

    But he didn’t mind to meet the war criminal Netanyahu!
    Shame on him for his pro genocide stand and his ongoing deafening silence towards starvation of Gaza people and death of 30000 Palestinians killed by Israel.
    His hands are covered with Palestinian blood and his apologies are not accepted!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *