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Rowan Williams Tells 'Persecuted' British Christians To 'Grow Up': Former Archbishop Urges Perspective

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Former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams speaks at the 'Big IF' rally to call for G8 action on the causes of hunger in the world in Hyde Park in central London on June 8, 2013. Thousands of people gathered in the capital's Hyde Park for the anti-hunger demonstration, hosted by lobby group Enough Food For Everyone If with speakers that included British filmmaker Danny Boyle and Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates. AFP PHOTO / ANDREW COWIE (Photo credit should read ANDREW COWIE/AFP/Gett | Getty

Western Christians need to "grow up" and stop complaining of "persecution," said Lord Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

His experiences abroad meeting victims of actual religious persecution and violence led him to urge British Christians to make the distinction between feeling "mildly uncomfortable" and "the systematic brutality and often murderous hostility which means that every morning you get up wondering if you and your children are going to make it through the day."

Williams said:

When you have any contact with real persecuted minorities you learn to use the word 'persecuted' very chastely. I think we are made to feel uncomfortable at times. We're made to feel as if we're idiots - perish the thought! But that kind of level of not being taken very seriously or being made fun of; I mean for goodness sake, grow up.

His statements are timely considering the current violence against Christians in Egypt, where over 30 churches have been torched in conjunction with the political upheaval. Coptic Bishop Angaelos of the United Kingdom issued a statement warning of the "very real risk upon the life of every Christian," and Pope Tawadros II has suspended weekly public events in Egypt due to safety concerns.

Meanwhile in Syria, rebel groups told Christians to "flee or die," and a Jesuit priest from Italy was killed there last week.

An April poll by the Coalition for Marriage reported that 67% of U.K. Christians feel like they are part of a "persecuted minority." The Coalition for Marriage pointed to Prime Minister David Cameron's support of marriage equality as a reason behind the statistic.

Lord Carey, another former Archbishop of Canterbury, weighed in on the issue earlier this year, also arguing that Cameron was partly to blame for feelings of persecution that some Christians have.

"Their fears may be exaggerated because few in the UK are actually persecuted, but the Prime Minister has done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties," he said.

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