During a visit hosted by the Archbishop of Westminster, on Thursday to meet with Syrian and Iraqi Catholics, the Prince of Wales warned that the future of Christianity is threatened by the crisis in the Middle East.
“Christian communities in the Middle East are being targeted like never before by fanatical Islamist militants intent on dividing communities that had lived together for centuries. The impact of all this unmentionable violence and cruelty has had on individual lives is heart breaking,” he said: “Earlier this year I spent time with three remarkable people who had been subject to unimaginable levels of barbaric horror, including a Jesuit priest who had been working in Homs in Syria and a Chaldean Catholic priest from northern Iraq who had been kidnapped by Daesh, threatened daily with beheading but never renounced his faith nor lost his power of forgiveness. Their heart-rending testimonies are a powerful reminder, if indeed such a reminder is needed, of the terrifying depths to which people will sink, in the name of so-called faith.”
The gathering which was hosted by Archbishop Vincent Nichols was graced by members of London’s Iraqi Chaldean and Syrian Catholic communities, representatives of the Orthodox and Armenian Churches from the war-zone as well as representatives of charities working on behalf of those suffering conflict and oppression throughout the Middle East.Also, Charities including Iraqi Christians in Need, Friends of the Holy Land, the Jesuit Refugee Service and Aid to the Church in Need were in attendance too.
The Prince, speaking at the Advent reception took his time to listen to the stories of the refugees from the Middle East. Among them was Mark Mansor, from Iraq, who had lost family trying to cross the sea from Turkey to Greece. He spoke to Prince Charles about his struggle to bring his late brother’s little son, who against all odds, survived the board journey and is now in Athens, to join him in London.
Sarmad Ozan ,an engineering student from Iran and a member of the Syriac Orthodox Church, told Prince Charles of how he escaped with his family after they were threatened by ISIS.
Although he secured a scholarship to study in Britain, the Iraqi state will no longer fund him because he is a Christian, he told the prince, and is now appealing against the rejection of his asylum claim in Britain. He said that the prince told him “We are with you” when he explained his plight.
Prince Charles’ concerns for the suffering in Middle Eastern Christians was praised by the visitors of the reception. Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom said that Prince Charles’ level of concern on the Middle Eastern Christians means a huge update to the profile of the Middle Eastern Christians.
“I think the government is very aware of the views of people in this country,” Cardinal Nichols said, “and I think also of the generosity of many people in this country and the policy which they put in place which essentially is one of receiving refugees directly from the refugee camps and therefore trying to discourage these perilous journeys by sea and land.”
The Cardinal continued, “It’s a policy that’s respected. … This policy needs to be accelerated, it needs to be given priority in this first year and then reassessed to see if a much greater number, on the basis of experience, could be helped to be brought to this country.”
The Advent reception is one of the many opportunities in the past year when Prince Charles expressed his sadness about the persecutions Christians face in parts of the Middle East. and today, Cardinal Nichols commended the Prince for his candid support
“At this time at Christmas there should be particular concern for those who suffer in the name of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Prayers were said at the service that concluded the meeting by Melkite, Maronite and Syriac Catholics.