Archbishop of Canterbury warns against 'ignorant phobia' of other faiths

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned against using "dangerous political rhetoric" that raises tensions among different faith groups.

Justin Welby said he struggled not to be 'grumpy' at Christian groups who stoke dividesToby Melville/Reuters

At an interfaith gathering at Lambeth Palace on Thursday evening Justin Welby spoke out against the "unthinking, ignorant, fearful nature of much phobia" about other religions. He addressed an audience which included the chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as well as number of Muslim, Sikh and Hindu representatives.

"I spend a lot of time trying not to get grumpy when Christians comment on how dangerous this faith tradition is or that faith tradition," he said. 

"Come on. Look at the evidence."

The reception was to celebrate the Near Neighbours project, which aims to forge relationships between people of different religious and ethnic backgrounds.

"We are in a time of rising tension," Welby warned. He spoke of a "sharp rise" in antisemitism which he said was "intolerable".

He told a packed tent in the grounds of Lambeth Palace: "I am not looking at any political party. It is deeply embedded in so much of our culture in this country, as is racism."

In what could be seen as veiled barb at Zac Goldsmith's campaign for London mayor, he criticised politicians who use dangerous rhetoric and "play with words that raise tensions".

It was a "false perception" that people of faith lead parallel lives which did not intersect, he said. "Here we are together – scarcely parallel lives."

Both Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for mayor, and the Prime Minister sought to brand Sadiq Khan, the Muslim Labour candidate, as an extremist. The tactic backfired and Khan won with the highest individual mandate of any politician in UK history.