London: Prince Charles meets Chaldean Catholic community

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London: Prince Charles meets Chaldean Catholic community | Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, Chaldean Catholic Church, The Archbishop of Basra, Habib Jajou, Neville Kyrke-Smith, Aid To The Church In Need,
The Prince of Wales greets Archbishop Habib of Basra, Iraq
The Prince of Wales has visited the Iraqi Chaldean Christian community in London on Tuesday, to hear about their first-hand experiences of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

Speaking at a Catholic church service in west London, The Prince said that we have a “duty of care” towards the families of those who are being executed on camera by terrorist groups in the Middle East.

“We hear much at present about the ‘duty of care’,” he said. “Then, ladies and gentlemen, I am bound to ask whether there is not a duty of care towards the victims of violence and their families who, like you, are daily distraught by the graphic transmission of violent images of their loved ones.”

The church service at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Acton was for Chaldean Christians, a denomination of the Catholic Church that includes many Iraqis and Syrians. There are approximately 4,000 Iraqi Chaldean Christians in the UK, and numbers have grown since the conflict with Iran in the 1980s.

More recently Christians in Iraq have come under attack from Isis militants who are trying to create a pure Islamic state in the country, and many have been attacked and forced to leave their homes.

The Prince met Chaldean Catholics whose families are suffering because of persecution in Iraq.

Maijida Nissan, 64, has a brother and sister who still live in Iraq. She has lived in the UK for 29 years and has worked as a nanny. Mrs Nissan thanked The Prince for his work to draw attention to the plight of persecuted Christians, to which he responded with: “It’s the least I can do.”

She also said she was praying, and he replied: “We all do.” Afterwards she said: “I am very happy that he came here, and thanks to God that he came here. God brings him here.”

Mrs Nissan’s brother’s house in Baghdad has been bombed twice, and he now lives with his family in a church in Erbil.

She said that his daughter, Meena, 11, had asked her to speak to the royal family to tell them about her family’s plight.

Another churchgoer, Dr Samad Toma, 37, a clinical scientist, has a sister who was forced to leave her home city of Mosul with her four children when Isis captured the city in June this year. He said: “There was 20 hours of no connection with them. It was really frightening, but they managed to go to the Kurdish area.

“You lose all your history, you lose your childhood memories, you lose everything. Your connections, even your friends. I have some friends who have been killed just because they refuse to obey Isis rule. You lose your roots.

“I wish one day I might go there, show my children where their father has been raised, where their mother has been raised. Where we used to go to school and where we used to have fun, but everything has now changed.

“Whenever I tell my daughters about Iraq, all they can see is killing. I think they would refuse to go there now, because they would be frightened.”

In his speech to the congregation The Prince said he felt strongly about the plight of persecuted Christians.

“I have been deeply distressed by the horrific scenes of violence and persecution coming out of your beloved Iraq. I know that many of those who have been killed or forced to flee are members of your own families. The pain and grief must be quite unimaginable as you see them persecuted because of their faith.”

He finished his speech by saying: “You can have no idea how much I feel for those who as I speak are suffering for their faith in such terrible circumstances.”

The Prince also met Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid To The Church In Need, who support persecuted Christians worldwide, telling him: “You’re doing a fantastic job.”

Last month His Royal Highness released a video message to introduce the charity’s report about religious freedom, and in September he made a donation through the charity to support Iraqi Christians.

The Archbishop of Basra, Habib Jajou, had come from Iraq to meet The Prince. He said: “We have to express our thanksgiving to him for the solidarity he has shown for our situation.”

The full text of Prince Charles’ speech follows:

Ladies and gentlemen I just wanted to say what a great delight it is to be with you on this brief occasion, and I know that many of you have come from different parts of the country to be here today and I am so grateful to you for that.

I must say that having heard some of the accounts and stories of unbearable suffering before I came into the church from members of your community, I feel extraordinarily inadequate in trying to express how much I feel for what all of you are forced to go through. Such indescribable agony. And the fact that I can be here with you just briefly on this occasion is merely a way of trying to show how much we feel for you.

I also must say that it was an enormously special treat to hear the choir singing this morning, but also to hear the Lord’s prayer said in Aramaic because somehow it connects us even more closely with our Lord more than 2000 years ago. And the fact that your community has been in Iraq, practicing for your faith, for all these hundreds of years, and the fact that now that very faith which has been there for so long is under threat of complete removal is beyond all belief. Certainly, as far as I am concerned.

Ladies and Gentlemen in this season of Advent I particularly wanted you to know, that as Christmas approaches my heart goes out to all Christians who are being persecuted on account of their faith.

As some of you may know, throughout my life I have appealed for greater understanding between people of faith, for greater tolerance and for harmony between the great religions of the world.

Therefore, for me it is utterly inconceivable that a person of one faith could find it in themselves to persecute a person of another faith. Surely to do so brings nothing but dishonour on the faith of the persecutor?

Like so many of you, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been deeply distressed by the horrific scenes of violence and persecution coming out of your beloved Iraq. I know that many of those who have been killed or forced to flee are members of your own families. I’ve heard about that today. The pain and grief for you must be quite unimaginable as you see them persecuted because of their faith.

It seems to me that all faiths to some extent shine a light on the divine image in every human life. If that is so, then surely to destroy another human being is to desecrate the image of the Divine, and to do so in the name of faith is nothing less than a blasphemy?

As these truly dreadful images of executions and beheadings are transmitted around the world via the Internet I cannot help but feel that we are in serious danger, in this so-called modern age, of descending into the dark ages of public executions.

We hear much at present about “the duty of care”. Then, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am bound to ask, whether there is not a duty of care towards the victims of violence and their families who, like you, are daily distraught by the graphic transmission of violent images of their loved ones?

But to you, Ladies and Gentlemen, whose brothers and sisters are suffering at this terrible time, to you whose families have lived, as I was saying, in the biblical lands since biblical times, I can only say from my heart that I thank God for your astonishing courage, faithfulness and perseverance.

The Apostle Paul who went from being a persecutor to being persecuted encourages us to be steadfast in faith. And, at this most agonising time we have to struggle not to forget that Our Lord called upon us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute. As you and your families know only too well, that is easier said than done.

But by being with you this Christmas time I wanted to assure you of my constant thoughts and sympathy, and those of my family. As you know, the story of the Nativity ends with the Holy Family fleeing for refuge from persecution. You and your families are quite literally following in the footsteps of the Holy Family.

My prayers, then, go with you that, like them, you too will one day be able to return to your own country, and to the place that has nurtured both your life and your faith.

In the meantime, you can have no idea how much I feel for those who, as I speak, are suffering for their faith in such terrible circumstances.

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