Prince Charles and Prince Ghazi bin Mohammad of Jordan (right) arrive for a visit to a Syriac Orthodox Church in London (Reuters)
At a Christmas reception for Middle East Christians at Clarence House yesterday, the prince made an impassioned statement on behalf of the persecuted in which he not only pleaded for the victims but named their persecutors:
“I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East,” he said.
“It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants.”
In a reference to the Christmas story, he added: “Christianity was literally born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Their church communities link us straight back to the early church as I was reminded by hearing Aramaic, our Lord’s own language spoken and sung just a few hours ago.
“Yet today the Middle East and North Africa has the lowest concentration of Christians in the world – just four per cent of the population and it is clear that the Christian population has dropped dramatically over the last century and is falling still further.
“This has an effect on all of us, although of course primarily on those Christians who can no longer continue to live in the Middle East.
“We all lose something immensely and irreplaceably precious when such a rich tradition dating back 2,000 years begins to disappear.”
Speaking personally, he added: “For 20 years I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding.
“The point though surely is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so.
“This is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution including upon Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.”
Victims and family members of those being ‘attacked’ told the Prince about their experiences in the region.
I thank Prince Charles for giving the persecution of Christians in the ME a world forum.