Prince Charles Decries Persecution of Christians in Christmas Message: Jesus' Family Fled Violence, Too
In his Christmas message this year, Prince Charles reflected on the religious persecution that Christians and other religious minorities face throughout the world, calling it "beyond all belief" that it still continues even after the horrors of the Holocaust were exposed.
"I was born in 1948, just after the end of World War II in which my parents' generation had fought, and died, in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and an inhuman attempt to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe," the Prince of Wales said in his message, released on Thursday.
"That, nearly 70 years later, we should still be seeing such evil persecution is, to me, beyond all belief. We owe it to those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past," he added.
Charles said he recently met with a Jesuit priest from Syria who told him that unless major action is taken, it's possible that there might not be any Christians left in Iraq in five years time.
He pointed to statistics from the United Nations that show the world's refugees now number close to 65.3 million people, which is close to the entire population of the U.K.
Charles said that Christians think about the birth of Jesus Christ during Christmas, and this year they are reminded of the full story surrounding why Joseph and Mary fled to Bethlehem.
"I wonder, though, if this year we might remember how the story of the Nativity unfolds — with the fleeing of the Holy Family to escape violent persecution. And we might also remember that when the [Islamic] prophet Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina, he did so because he, too, was seeking the freedom for himself and his followers to worship," he insisted.
Charles suggested that regardless of one's religion, people should seek to value and respect other people, "accepting their right to live out their peaceful response to the love of God."
The Prince of Wales attended the consecration of a Syriac Orthodox Church in London in November, where he also spoke about the persecution Christians are facing at the hands of the Islamic State and other terror groups.
"It is surely deeply encouraging, at a time when the members of the Syriac Orthodox Church in their homelands of Syria and Iraq are undergoing such desperate trials and such appalling suffering, that in Britain the Syriac Church is able to expand and gain in strength," Charles said in a speech during the ceremony at the Cathedral of St Thomas in Acton.
The future king of England has talked about the disappearance of Christians in Syria and Iraq on a number of occasions, and in December 2015 also warned that Christianity might be entirely erased from the land of its birth in the Middle East within five years.
"This affects us all, consequently the greatest challenge we face is how to ensure the spiritual and cultural heritage of Christianity in the Middle East is preserved for future generations," Charles said.