Anglican chief apologises for 1919 Amritsar massacre
To mark 100 years since the attack on civilians in the northern Indian city, Justin Welby described his “deep sense of grief” about the “terrible atrocity”.
Under the orders of Brigadier Reginald Dyer, an Anglican, on April 13, 1919, colonial troops fired on thousands of peaceful protesters at Jallianwala Bagh in the Punjab city.
A colonial committee reported that almost 400 people were killed, with up to four times as many injured.
Indian observers said there were more than 1,000 deaths.
Winston Churchill described the massacre in the Commons as “an extraordinary event, a monstrous event, an event which stands in singular and sinister isolation”.
It helped spark Mahatma Gandhi’s fight for independence.
In 1997, Queen Elizabeth laid a wreath at a site but Prince Philip stole the headlines by reportedly saying that the Indian estimates for the death toll were “vastly exaggerated”.
In 2013, then prime minister David Cameron visited the site and described the massacre as “deeply shameful” but stopped short of a public apology.
Archbishop Justin Welby. Picture credit: Facebook
This year, his successor, Theresa May described the massacre as “a shameful scar on British-Indian history”. Britain has never formally apologised.
This week the archbishop visited the city’s Golden Temple, sacred to Sikhs and adjacent to Jallianwala Bagh.
Welby posted on Facebook: “I feel a deep sense of grief having visited the site of the horrific Jallianwala Bagh massacre today in Amritsar, where a great number of Sikhs, as well as Hindus, Muslims and Christians, were shot dead by British troops in 1919.
“I have no status to apologise on behalf of the UK, its government or its history. But I am personally very sorry for this terrible atrocity.
“Coming here arouses a sense of profound shame at what happened in this place. It is one of a number of deep stains on British history. The pain and grief that has transcended the generations since must never be dismissed or denied.
“Learning of what happened, I recognise the sins of my British colonial history, the ideology that too often subjugated and dehumanised other races and cultures. Jesus Christ calls us to turn away from sin and to turn to Him as Lord.”
Bullet holes. Picture credit: Flickr