Barnabas Edit: Prince Charles & UK politicians for persecuted Christians

January 11, 2014 by  
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Prince Charles "deeply troubled" by the plight of Christians in the Middle East

Prince Charles "deeply troubled" by the plight of Christians in the Middle East

UK, January 09, 2014: Over the Christmas and New Year period, a number of prominent figures in Britain, including Prince Charles and politicians across the political spectrum, have made important statements about the persecution of Christians.

They join a chorus of cries that is sounding louder and louder in the UK following a speech by Baroness Warsi, Minister for Faith, in November, and recentdebates in both Houses of Parliament.

The Prince of Wales focused his speech, which was both personal and well-informed, on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. At a reception at Clarence House on 17 December, Prince Charles said:

I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East. It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants. Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ.

He had spent the day visiting UK-based Eastern churches, where I had the privilege to talk to the prince. He was accompanied by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of the Jordanian royal family; they heard accounts of Christians being murdered and families forced from their homes.

Prince Charles expressed concern for the dramatic decline of the Christian population in the Middle East and paid tribute to Prince Ghazi and King Abdullah II of Jordan for their efforts to support the beleaguered minority in the region. In September, they convened a conference in the Jordanian capital Amman to address the challenges facing Arab Christians, especially those in Egypt and Syria.

The Prince of Wales said that he has “tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding” but added:

We have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so – and this is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution – including to Christian communities in the Middle East at the present time.

A “STORY LARGELY UNTOLD”

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander: “We must not stand by in silence”

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander: “We must not stand by in silence”

A few days after Prince Charles’ remarkable address, Labour’s Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary, wrote an article for the Telegraph in which he outlined the suffering of Christians in various parts of the world and questioned why this “remains a story that goes largely untold”.

Referring to His Royal Highness’ speech, Mr Alexander said:

Christians are being deliberately targeted and attacked because of their faith. But why, when popes and princes are speaking up, have so many politicians here in the UK forsaken speaking out?

He paid tribute to those who have taken a stand, notably Baroness Warsi, and DUP MP Jim Shannon, who secured a debate in the House of Commons on the persecution of Christians, but asked, “Why, given the scale of the suffering, are these still such lone voices?”

He offered an explanation for the reticence, suggesting that politicians seem to fear discussing any matters related to faith, “perhaps through a misplaced sense of political correctness, or some sense of embarrassment at ‘doing God’ in an age when secularism is more common”.

Mr Alexander urged others to speak out:

People of all faiths and none should be horrified by this persecution. We cannot, and we must not, stand by on the other side in silence for fear of offence…

Just like anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, anti-Christian persecution must be named for the evil that it is, and challenged systematically by people of faith and of no faith. To do so is not to support one faith over another – it is to say that persecution and oppression of our fellow human beings in the name of any god or ideology is never acceptable and is morally repugnant.

Mr Alexander called on the government to use the opportunity it has this year, when it assumes its place on the UN Human Rights Council, to speak out against the persecution of Christians, adding, “If the UK government does so, we, as the Opposition, will support them”.

STOP AID TO PERSECUTORS

Other notable politicians have added their voices to the chorus, with calls for practical measures to help Christians who are being persecuted. In an interview with the Times on 2 January former defence secretary Liam Fox said that Britain should stop giving millions of pounds in aid to countries that do not “represent our values” but persecute Christians:

A lot of people find it increasingly unacceptable as we look round the world and we see persecution of Christians, for example, or persecution of other religious minorities. They say, “Why should our money be given to regimes and governments who are extremely intolerant when it comes to other people’s religions?”

Dr Fox, MP for North Somerset, highlightedPakistan and Somalia as being guilty of tolerating inequality and the persecution of Christians. The government has allocated more than £1 billion in aid to Pakistan between 2011 and 2015, while in 2012, Somalia received more than £89 million from UK taxpayers.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has meanwhile urged the government to offer refuge to Christians fleeing violence in Syria. He has been criticised for suggesting that Christians be allowed into the UK while Syria’s neighbours take Muslim refugees. But he explained why Syrian Christians need particular help from the West.

In a statement issued on 30 December, Mr Farage said:

Christians are being increasingly persecuted across the Middle East and Syria as extreme Islamist elements seek to purge the region of Christianity.

If we do not help these people then who will? We must as a nation help Christians who are fleeing Syria to escape death and torture by allowing some to come to the UK.

He may not be politically correct, but it is at least in part, as Mr Alexander identified, political correctness that has hitherto prevented Western leaders from helping persecuted Christians. They need targeted support from the West because they do not receive it within their own countries.

The UK government has so far refused to accept any refugees from Syria.

SEA CHANGE

Dr Liam Fox: Stop aid to countries that persecute Christians

Dr Liam Fox: Stop aid to countries that persecute Christians

For years and years the global persecution of Christians has been almost completely ignored by our political leaders, but we are now witnessing a sea change and, as we embark on 2014, we need to capitalise on this shift and keep building momentum so that words will turn into actions.

At Barnabas Fund, we are developing contacts with MPs and producing material to make them aware of the gravity of the crisis facing Christians around the world.

You too can play your part by writing to your political representative and local newspaper about the plight of our brothers and sisters.

And we have extended the deadline for our Syria petition to 30 April 2014 to give people more time to mobilise support for this vital cause.

Perhaps you could make it your New Year resolution to do something to keep the pressure on those in power to help our persecuted Christian family.

– dr patrick sookhdeo

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