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King views sacred texts from other faiths in Lambeth Palace Library visit

20 November 2023


King Charles looks the Letter from the Unknown Slave during his visit to the Lambeth Palace Library in London

King Charles looks the Letter from the Unknown Slave during his visit to the Lambeth Palace Library in London

THE KING visited Lambeth Palace Library on Thursday last week for a reception to mark Interfaith Week, and to view religious books and manuscripts in the library’s collection.

The Archbishop of Canterbury welcomed the King to Lambeth Palace for the first time since the collection moved to its purpose-built new home (News, 19 March 2021).

The King met librarians, conservators, and archivists, who had prepared a display that included a 16th-century Qur’an, a 15th-century Arabic edition of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament), and the Bomberg Talmud, made in Venice in the early 1500s, which combines the original Aramaic text with commentary in Hebrew.

Asking questions about the conservation of the items in the collection, he expressed his hope that being exposed to natural light for his visit wouldn’t do any damage — and was assured that no harm would befall the books.

The First Church Estates Commissioner, Alan Smith, showed the King some of the items that informed the Church Commissioners’ decision to launch a £100 million impact-investment fund to benefit communities affected by the transatlantic slave trade (News, 10 January).

Archbishop Welby told the King that what is known as the “Letter from the Unknown Slave”, sent in 1723 to the Archbishop at the time, and which went unanswered, had “a profound effect” on the project.

Afterwards, at a reception for faith leaders on the top floor of the library building, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh Ahluwalia presented the King with a copy of the Peace Charter for Forgiveness and Reconciliation, in the form of a scroll.

The document was developed by an international group of faith leaders and academics, including the Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth.

Neil Turner/Lambeth PalaceThe King receives the Peace Charter, in the form of a scroll

Speaking afterwards, Bhai Sahib, who is head of the Sikh charitable organisation Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, said that, in a world in which “wars are raging and people are being killed”, the message of peace was more important than ever — and forgiveness, and faith, were key.

“To have sustainable peace you to have forgiveness,” he said, and that faith acted as a bulwark against “hopelessness”. This was why religious education was vital, he said, adding that in their conversation the King had agreed that it was important for children to learn the values enshrined in faith traditions.

The Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis, the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, and representatives from the organising committee of Interfaith Week were also present at the event.

After the visit, Archbishop Welby said: “These are challenging times for faith communities in the UK, particularly with the ongoing war in the Middle East.

“Today’s visit by the King was a wonderful encouragement to remain united in partnership and friendship — as many people of faith are doing across the country.”

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