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Prince Charles: Christians shouldn’t take religious freedom for granted

The Prince of Wales meets religious leaders after attending a service of prayers by the Melkite Greek Catholic community at St Barnabas Church in Pimlico, London (Getty Images)

Christians in Britain and elsewhere should not take their freedom of worship and expression for granted, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has said.

In a speech to members of the Melkite Greek Catholic community, Prince Charles said he was “profoundly shocked” to hear the persecution they had endured in Syria.

“As someone who, throughout my life, has tried, in whatever small way I can, to foster understanding between people of faith, and to build bridges between the great religions of the world, it is heartbreaking beyond words to see just how much pain and suffering is being endured by Christians, in this day and age, simply because of their faith.”

“As Christians we remember, of course, how Our Lord called upon us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute,” he added. “But for those confronted with such hatred and oppression, I can only begin to imagine how incredibly hard it must be to follow Christ’s example.”

It is therefore “vitally important” that Christians in Britain and elsewhere “who enjoy the rights of freedom of worship and freedom of expression, do not take those rights for granted.”

The prince was speaking at St Barnabas Anglican Church in Pimlico, which has hosted Melkite Greek Catholics fleeing persecution in the Middle East, and allows them to celebrate Divine Liturgy every Sunday.

His speech comes a year after he told BBC Radio 4 that anti-Christian persecution was being overlooked. He recalled meeting a Jesuit priest from Syria who gave him “a graphic account of what life is like for those Christians he was forced to leave behind”.

“Clearly for such people religious freedom is a daily stark choice between life and death. The scale of religious persecution around the world is not widely appreciated, nor is it limited to Christians in the troubled regions of the Middle East.

“A recent report suggests that attacks are increasing on Yazidis, Jews, Ahmadis, Baha’is and many other minority faiths, and in some countries even more insidious forms of religious extremism have recently surfaced which aim to eliminate all types of religious diversity.”