Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster

Christians of the Middle East Meeting with the Prince of Wales

Given at the meeting of Christians of the Churches of the Near and Middle East with His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, at Archbishop’s House, Westminster on Thursday 17 December 2015.

Your Royal Highness,

It is my great pleasure, on behalf of all present today, to welcome you and to thank you for this initiative, calling much needed attention to the plight of Christians suffering death and persecution in many countries in the Middle East. We are honoured by your presence and so grateful for your persevering and forthright support for those who are suffering for their Christian faith. 

This is not the time or place to go into statistical detail, but the scale of the destruction by the extremist forces of traditions, cultures and their peoples is gradually being more fully understood. The lands of the Middle East are the home of so many ancient religious traditions: Zoroastrians, Yazidis, Mandaens, Druse, Samaritans which are mostly disappearing from that region. And this is dramatically so also of the Christian churches, many represented here this morning. 

Christians are being driven from their homes simply because, being Christians, they will not submit to the demands of ISIL. They lose their lives and are properly called martyrs. Here we remember that the proper use of the title martyr never includes a person who kills himself or herself. Many who are not Christians are being slaughtered: indeed the majority are Muslims and Yazidis. But at this time of Christmas and in this country there should be a particular concern for those who suffer for the name of Jesus Christ. 

Your Royal Highness, we are so grateful for your insistence in this matter. We thank you for your leadership at a time when our public culture is losing its readiness to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian foundations of our society, while at the same time relying on them for continuing stability. As a society we strive to offer respect to all people, but forget that such respect is due because of the God-given dignity of every human being. We rejoice in the compassion and generosity which characterise this country, but we may fail to remember that they are rooted in Biblical imperatives, just as is our administration of justice. Our tolerance and readiness to make space for each other has its roots in the imperative to forgive those who may offend us. And the trust needed for so many of our transactions is ultimately rooted in the fact that we have one Heavenly Father and that in Him we are brothers and sisters. In nurturing these practical values by which our society strives to live we do well to recognise that our Christian heritage as a huge and powerful resource, and not as a problem or an embarrassment, as many voices insist. 

Your Royal Highness, in proclaiming clearly the persecution of Christians in other lands we also affirm this faith in our land. To remain silent about this specific persecution is to neglect and weaken the awareness and role of this faith here. 

For these reasons we again thank you, Your Royal Highness. We assure you of our prayers and we rejoice that at this Christmas season our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering and persecuted will find a special place in the prayers of us all. 

Your Highness, we also, warmly, wish you and your family a happy and holy Christmas. 

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