Britain’s new monarch is known as a champion of old-fashioned causes.
He was dismissed as “completely idiotic” in the 1970s when he started sounding the alarm about plastic pollution. In the 1980s, he was mocked for installing “strange machines” called piggy banks – for recycling – at Buckingham Palace.
Environmentalism has long since become mainstream, but in recent years King Charles III has tried to draw attention to another old-fashioned phenomenon that is often dismissed, downplayed or ignored.
The monarch has become one of the world’s most influential supporters of persecuted Christians.
It is difficult to identify the precise moment when Charles publicly embraced the cause of suffering Christians. But he took a big step in 2013, when the Islamist group ISIS was rampaging through Syria and Iraq.
The future king visited a Coptic Orthodox Church center and a Syrian Orthodox church that year in south-east England, before hosting a reception for Middle Eastern Christians at Clarence House, his London residence.
“The prince expressed concern about the current challenges facing Christians in some Middle Eastern countries and wanted to meet with members of these communities residing in the UK to find out more,” his office told the press. ‘era.
“The Prince of Wales wants to draw attention to the importance of harmony and understanding between people of all faiths.”
Charles met Christians in the Middle East with Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, coordinator of the “A Common Word” initiative, in which Muslim leaders reached out to their Christian counterparts after Benedict XVI’s speech in Regensburg. Through contacts like the Jordanian prince, the heir to the throne has kept abreast of the deteriorating situation in the Middle East.
Beginning in 2013, Charles began speaking out frequently and emphatically on behalf of persecuted Christians.
In 2014, he sent a video message to the launch of a report on religious freedom by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (UK).
“It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East, a region where Christians have lived for 2,000 years and through which Islam spread in 700 AD, with people of different faiths living together peacefully for centuries,” the prince said. said.
His message greatly raised the profile of the report, which otherwise would have received little coverage outside of Christian media.
Two years later, Charles spoke about Christian persecution on BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme. Speaking on the ‘Thought of the Day’ slot – which also hosted Benedict XVI and Pope Francis – he recalled a conversation with a Jesuit from Syria. The priest had told the prince that the Christian community in Iraq could disappear within five years due to persecution and emigration.
“The extent of religious persecution around the world is not widely appreciated. Nor is it limited to Christians in troubled parts of the Middle East,” Charles said.
“A recent report suggests that attacks are increasing against Yazidis, Jews, Ahmadis, Baha’is and many other minority faiths. And in some countries, even more insidious forms of extremism have recently surfaced, which aim to eliminate all types of religious diversity.
The prince compared the treatment of religious minorities around the world to the “dark days of the 1930s”.
“I was born in 1948, just after the end of the Second World War, during which my parents’ generation fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and an inhumane attempt to extermination of the Jewish population of Europe,” he said. .
“That nearly 70 years later, we are still witnessing such evil persecution is, to me, beyond belief. We owe it to those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past.
In 2017, the prince met with persecuted Christians in London ahead of a service hosted by Melkite Greek Catholics.
He told the congregation, “As a person who throughout my life has tried in every way possible to foster understanding between believers and to build bridges between the major religions of the world, c It is heartbreaking beyond words to see how much pain and suffering are endured by Christians today simply because of their faith.
The Guardian newspaper noted in 2018 that the prince had met regularly with Christian leaders in the Middle East, “as well as priests and ordinary people who have been forced to flee their homes”. He added that he is said to have “made private donations to help Christians who have fled to Britain from countries like Iraq and Syria”.
The prince used his 2018 Easter message to express his solidarity with persecuted believers.
“My heart goes out to all those who today, regardless of their beliefs, are persecuted on religious grounds,” he said. “And at this Easter time, as our minds are reminded of the sufferings 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 are in our prayers.
Later in 2018, Charles spoke at a service for Christians in the Middle East at Westminster Abbey, a royal church in central London.
He described an encounter with a Dominican sister from Nineveh, northern Iraq, who was seized by ISIS in 2014. He said she “took the wheel of a minibus full of her fellow Christians and led the long and dangerous road to safety.” Behind them they left “the ruins of their homes and their churches, and the shattered remnants of their communities”.
After the fall of ISIS, the sister returned home, determined to rebuild her broken community.
“Churches, schools, orphanages and businesses are rising from the rubble, and the fabric of this society, which had been so cruelly torn, is gradually being mended,” the prince said, calling it “the most wonderful test of the resilience”. of humanity and the extraordinary power of faith to resist even the most brutal efforts to extinguish it.
He added, “We can only give thanks for the truly remarkable strength of faith with which so many Christians face persecution and which gives them the courage and determination to endure and overcome.”
John Pontifex, press and information officer at Aid to the Church in Need (UK), said The pillar“Our new King has, as Prince of Wales, shown deep and enduring compassion for Christians targeted for their beliefs, an approach that was absolutely aligned with his commitment to religious freedom.”
“Through Aid to the Church in Need and others, he met a number of survivors of persecution and Church leaders responsible for leading their communities in times of great suffering.”
“Both in these meetings and in his public statements, he has shown a deep understanding of the importance of religious freedom and a recognition of the urgent need for action to help those who are persecuted.”
The King’s Speech
In his maiden address to the nation on September 9, King Charles underscored the British monarch’s position as supreme governor of the Anglican Church of England, the country’s established church.
In this role, he will influence not only the Church of England, but also the global Anglican Communion, the world’s third largest Christian community after the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy. The Anglican Communion has tens of millions of members in more than 165 countries, including hotspots of persecution such as Nigeria, India and Pakistan.
Therefore, as king, Charles has even more reason to continue to seek to raise awareness of anti-Christian oppression. The coming years will likely present many opportunities to do so. Advocacy group Open Doors USA estimates that more than 360 million Christians worldwide currently face high levels of persecution and discrimination, and 5,898 have been killed for their faith in the past year alone.
Charles III is one of the rare international personalities who grasps the extent of the suffering and does not hesitate to denounce it.
Log in or become a member of The Pillar to join the conversation.
Simply enter your email below to get a login link.