“The impact that… unmentionable violence and cruelty has had on individual lives is utterly heart-breaking.”
By John Pontifex
HRH The Prince of Wales has delivered an impassioned appeal on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, saying that that the growing crisis of extremism “threatens the very existence of Christianity in the land of its birth”.
Pointing to the drastic decline of Christianity in the region especially Iraq, Prince Charles told a London gathering of Church leaders and Middle East Christians that the suffering inflicted by Islamist militants Daesh (ISIS) is “utterly heart-breaking”.
In his speech given at the event yesterday (17th December) at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, the Prince called for more “practical” help for persecuted Christians ” and went on to praise Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) as “a remarkable organisation”.
The charity, which has 140 projects ongoing in the Middle East, this week announced 30 extra emergency aid packages for Iraq and Syria.
At the event, titled an Advent Reception and hosted by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, the Prince said: “The suffering [of Middle East Christians] is symptomatic of a very real crisis which threatens the very existence of Christians in the land of its birth.”
Quoting from ACN’s ‘Persecuted and Forgotten? A Report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-15’, released in October, Prince Charles said: “Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq within five years, unless emergency help is provided on a greatly increased scale.”
In his speech, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, addressed the Prince: “Thank you for calling for much needed attention to the plight of Christians suffering death and persecution in many countries in the Middle East.”
He added: “Christians are being driven from their homes simply because, being Christians, they will not submit to the demands of ISIL [Daesh].
“They lost their lives and are properly called martyrs.”
Prince Charles spoke of three victims of persecution he met two months ago – Jesuit Father Ziad Hilal who has helped Christians in Homs, Syria, Father Douglas Bazi, kidnapped and tortured by Islamic extremists in Baghdad, Iraq, and 15-year-old Victoria Youhanna who escaped with her family from militants Boko Haram.
Describing the three as “remarkable people subjected to indescribable levels of barbaric horror”, the Prince said: “The impact that… unmentionable violence and cruelty has had on individual lives is utterly heart-breaking.”
At yesterday’s event, he met Mark Mansor, who is grieving his brother and most of his brother’s family after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean a month ago.
The family had fled their homes in Qaraqosh, Nineveh, northern Iraq, when Daesh captured the town and went to Erbil but, desperate for a new life, fled to Turkey and from there hoped to gain access to Europe.
Stressing the Middle East as the birthplace and original heartland of the Church, the Prince underlined the need for action to preserve this ancient culture and spirituality, warning that “this remarkable heritage is under threat as never before”.
The Prince said Christians were not the sole victims of ISIS (Daesh), pointing out that the militants had also targeted Yazidis and non-Sunni Muslims.
Prince Charles told his audience: “My special prayers are with you and all those in the Middle East and elsewhere who suffer iniquitous atrocities and perfidious persecution for whatever faith they may belong to.”
In his speech, Cardinal Nichols also underlined that Christians were among many oppressed faith groups in the Middle East.
The Cardinal also said: “In proclaiming clearly the persecution of Christians in other lands we also affirm the faith in our land.
“To remain silent about this specific persecution is to neglect and weaken the awareness and role of this faith here.”
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in more than 140 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Need’s Child’s Bible – God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 176 languages and more than 51 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information, 020 8661 5161 or Clare Creegan, Digital Media and Press Officer on 020 8661 5175.
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Direct dial: 020 8661 5161
Visit our website at www.acnuk.org
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