This morning HRH Prince Charles presented BBC Radio 4’s devotional slot “Thought for the Day”, focusing his remarks particularly on the plight of persecuted Christians in the Middle East (click here to listen at 1:48 into the programme).
He spoke of meeting a Christian leader from Syria; of the mass kidnapping of Christians in Syria and Iraq; and of the real possibility of there being no Christians left in Iraq within five years (there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before the 1990-91 Gulf War). The prince observed that “the scale of religious persecution around the world is not widely appreciated”. He also voiced concern at attacks on minority religious groups such as Yazidis, Jews, Ahmadis and Baha’is and “even more insidious attempts” in some places to eliminate all forms of religious diversity. He went on to compare what is happening now with the Nazi holocaust of the Jews, saying:
“All of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s. I was born in 1948, just after the end of World War Two, in which my parents’ generation had fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and an inhuman attempt to exterminate the Jewish population in Europe. That, nearly 70 years later, we should still be seeing such evil persecution is, to me, beyond all belief. We owe it those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past.”
He also suggested that at Christmas this year we should focus not just on the nativity, but also on the flight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus from Bethlehem to escape persecution – something on which Barnabas Fund’s editorial today also focuses.
At the end of his talk, the Prince spoke movingly of having recently attended the consecration of the Syriac Orthodox Cathedral in London – a church for people who have fled persecution. This was an event about which Barnabas Fund has led a national campaign following the UK Home Office’s refusal to grant visitor visas to three Iraqi and Syrian archbishops who were invited to attend the consecration. Given the widespread press coverage of this issue both in the UK and internationally that followed Barnabas Fund’s initial raising of concerns, it is encouraging that the Prince has mentioned the consecration.
Commenting on Prince Charles’s words, the BBC religious affairs correspondent, Martin Bashir (click here to listen 2:21 into the programme), drew particular attention to the Prince’s use of the personal phrase “Our Lord Jesus Christ” and suggested that whilst wanting to offer support and protection to members of all faiths, Prince Charles was wishing to emphasise that he sees himself as a committed Christian.