THE Prince of Wales has spoken of his concern that a time might
come when there are no more Christians living in the Middle East.
Asked, in a BBC interview, recorded before he began a visit to the
region, if he thought there was a danger that they would all be
forced to leave, the Prince replied: "I think there is a real worry
because the numbers have gone down so dramatically. Now . . . in
Mosul and other centres, where there were a lot of Christians,
there are few left. They were intimidated to a degree you can't
The Prince said these people had been stripped of everything,
"their houses taken over, marked with an 'N' - that's what so
frightening - for 'Naserenes'". He said that many Christians who
had left were fearful of going back and faced "a most agonising
The Prince emphasised the need to combat the radicalisation of
religion, and said that there was a need for greater understanding
of the true roots of religious faith. "The most important thing",
he continued, "is to remind people of the distortions of the great
religions" and concentrate on the "original ideas and inspirations"
of their founders. "So often their message is so distorted by their
putative followers," he said. "We have to work harder to build
bridges, and we have to remember that our Lord taught us to love
our neighbour, to do to others as you would have them do to you. To
go on, despite the setbacks and discouragements, to show justice
and kindness to everyone."
Jordan was the first stop in the Prince's six-day tour, which
began on Saturday. He also visited Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and
In the Jordanian capital, Amman, Prince Charles addressed an
interfaith dialogue hosted by King Abdullah II. The Prince took up
the theme of the distortion and abuse of religions, saying that the
dialogue initiative in Jordan came at a time when "the situation in
Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere could not be more desperate. I do not
need to tell you, of course, of the horrors that have been
inflicted in the name of religion. All those who have any feeling
have watched in agony as people of all faiths have been persecuted,
and driven from their homes, tortured and killed in the most
barbaric way imaginable."
The Prince said that "it is all too easy to interpret what has
happened as a 'clash of faiths', a sign of the irreconcilable
differences between different faith communities. . . To do so could
not be more wrong." It was important to emphasise what "binds
Christianity and Islam together in a dialogue of love, compassion,
and mercy. These shared values have helped communities live
alongside one another in harmony for literally hundreds of years .
. . I have every confidence that compassion and mercy will
ultimately overcome evil."
Shortly after his arrival in Jordan, Prince Charles met a group
of Iraqi Christian refugees. One said that they had been homeless
for six months and did not want to return "because it is impossible
to live with the people who destroyed our homes and destroyed our
church. Those people were our neighbours with whom we lived
together but when Daesh [Islamic State] came, they directly became
our enemy. And they deprived us of everything."
The Prince expressed his sympathy. He could not "imagine a worse
situation to be in and it won't be of any consolation, but I have
been praying every day for all of you . . . I wish I could find a
Later, he visited the Zaatari refugee camp near the Syrian
border, home to more than 80,000 refugees, and toured the
facilities that have been established by aid organisations.
The International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, who
accompanied Prince Charles on his tour, announced that the UK would
contribute a further £100 million to help support Syrian refugees,
making the total British contribution pledged towards the refugee
crisis £800 million.
Aside from those forced out of their home by Islamist advances,
many of those sheltering in Jordan fled from attacks launched by
the Syrian government. But in an interview with the BBC, broadcast
on Monday, President Bashar al-Assad dismissed reports that
civilian areas had been targeted. He also justified the use of
force against the demonstrators in the early days of the uprising,
saying that "during the first few weeks many policemen were killed.
Shot dead. I don't think they were shot dead and killed by the
sound waves of the demonstrators - so it was just a fantasy to talk
about this. . . We have to talk about facts. From the very
beginning, the demonstrations weren't peaceful."
President Assad also denied the widely reported use of barrel
bombs filled with explosive shrapnel and dropped from military
helicopters on towns and cities. Adopting a facetious tone, he
replied: "I know about the army: they use bullets, missiles, and
bombs. I haven't heard of the army using barrels - or maybe cooking