'I want to assure them that they are not forgotten and that they are in our prayers'
His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has expressed his support for Christians suffering for their faith around the world in a video message released on Good Friday.
The Prince spoke of his concern for all those persecuted on religious grounds – and highlighted the problems faced by Christians in particular.
He said: At this time of Easter, when our minds are recalled to the suffering of Our Lord 2,000 years ago, we think especially of those Christians who are suffering for their faith in many places around the world.
“I want to assure them that they are not forgotten and that they are in our prayers.”
The video follows the Prince’s meetings with Church leaders from the Middle East, where Christians and other religious minorities have been targeted for their beliefs.
The Prince met Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, who has been overseeing the care of more than 100,000 Christians driven out of their homes on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains and Melkite Archbishop John Darwish of Zahlé and Furzol, Lebanon, who is helping Syrian Christian refuges receiving no help from other sources.
The meetings with Archbishops Warda and Darwish were organised with help from Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need which supports the local Churches’ work.
The charity’s last Persecuted and Forgotten? report, which examines human rights’ violations against Christians around the world, highlighted the genocide of Christians in the Middle East, concluding that the resulting exodus could threaten the continuing survival of the region’s ancient Churches.
In his message, The Prince of Wales pointed out causes of optimism for the faithful, including the return of Christians to their homes in northern Iraq and elsewhere.
He said: “I have also heard that in the darkness there are small shafts of light, signs of Resurrection and of hope that, slowly but surely, Christians who have had to flee from their homelands are beginning to return and to rebuild their shattered homes.”
According to figures released on Palm Sunday, 3,249 Christian houses on the Nineveh Plains have been restored out of 12,217 and 37,086 Christians have returned home.
The Prince noted that for centuries different faiths – particularly the three Abrahamic religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism – “lived side by side as neighbours and as friends”.
He said that in Lebanon, Muslims join with Christians at the Shrine of our Lady of Lebanon to honour Mary, adding that she “occupies a unique and elevated position in both Christianity and Islam”.
The Prince of Wales said: “Over the years, I have met many who have had to flee for their faith and for their life – or have somehow endured the terrifying consequences of remaining in their country – and I have been so deeply moved, and humbled, by their truly remarkable courage and by their selfless capacity for forgiveness, despite all that they have suffered.”
He added: “All three Abrahamic faiths have known and continue to know the bitterness of persecution when religion has fallen into the barbaric grip of those who distort and misrepresent faith.”
The video message, which also forms part of The Prince of Wales’s ongoing dialogue with Church leaders in the UK, was recorded at his official London residence, Clarence House, earlier in March.