Prince Charles spoke out yesterday over his fears that Christians in the Middle East are being ‘deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants’ and warned that as a result, Christianity is at risk of dying out in its birthplace.
He said that with Christians now numbering just 4% of the population in the cradle of the faith, "We all lose something immensely and irreplaceably precious when such a rich tradition dating back two thousand years begins to disappear."
He made his comments at a Christmas reception for religious leaders at Clarence House, flanked by the Islamic scholar Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan and joined by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis.
“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. Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ.”
The Prince added, “In saying all this about the difficulties facing the Christian churches in the Middle East I am, of course, conscious that they are not the only faith community in this region suffering at the moment, nor is the Middle East the only part of the world in which Christians are suffering, but, given the particularly acute circumstances faced by the church communities in the Middle East to-day, I felt it worthwhile to draw attention to their current plight.
“It is important to note, above all, that the decline of Christians in the region represents a major blow to peace as Christians are part of the fabric of society, often acting as bridge-builders between other communities. This crucial role throughout Middle Eastern society is one recognized by many Muslims (who are not extremists), both Shia or Sunni, who attest to the fact that Christians are their friends and that their communities are needed.”
Earlier in the day, Charles had spoken to Middle Eastern Christians who have fled to the UK as he visited the London cathedral of the Syriac Orthodox Church and the Coptic Orthodox Church centre in Stevenage, Herts. One Syrian man showed him mobile phone pictures of the destruction of his village.
The Prince added, "For twenty 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 – and this is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organized persecution – including to Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time."