The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, on Tuesday visited the Jallianwala Bagh Memorial in the city of Amritsar in Punjab, and apologised for the massacre by British officials 100 years ago.
“I feel a deep sense of grief, humility and profound shame having visited the site of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar today,” Welby tweeted. “Here, a great number of Sikhs – as well as Hindus, Muslims and Christians – were shot dead by British troops in 1919.”
Welby, the principal leader of the Church of England, said his first response was to pray to god for the healing of those who are still suffering grief, loss and anger. “And prayer means I must also commit to actions that bridge divides of culture and religion – that together we can root out hatred and seek the common good,” he added.
In a Facebook post, Welby said he could not speak on behalf of the British government but added that he was “personally very sorry for this terrible atrocity”. In April, United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Theresa May had expressed regret for the massacre, but stopped short of a full formal apology.
He said the visit to the memorial provoked feelings of profound shame for him. “It is one of a number of deep stains on British history,” Welby added. “The pain and grief that has transcended the generations since must never be dismissed or denied.”
The archbishop said that apologise as a Christian was “to turn around and take a new direction alongside voicing words of apology”. “When there is something on the scale and horror of this massacre, and done so many years ago, words can be cheaply banded around, as if a simple apology would ever be enough.”
Welby said he recognised the sins of British colonial history, and the ideology that often subjugated people and led to the dehumanisation of other races and cultures.
“Therefore, we have a great responsibility to not just lament this horrific massacre but most importantly to learn from it in a way that changes our actions,” he wrote on Facebook. “The past must be learned from so nothing like this ever happens again”.
On April 13, 1919, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer opened fire on unarmed people who gathered at Jallianwala Bagh to celebrate Baisakhi, and peacefully protest the arrest of nationalist leaders Satyapal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. General Dyer claimed 379 people were killed while the Indian National Congress pegged the toll at over 1,000.
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