Prince Charles finally gets it – Mazal tov !

After years of praising Islam, Prince Charles finally admitted that Christians were being persecuted in the Middle East:

 “It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately attacked 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.

 For 20 years, I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity… 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.”

 He said that he had for some time been deeply troubled by growing difficulties faced by Christian communities in the region. Despite being the birthplace of Christianity, the Middle East and North Africa have the lowest concentration of Christians in the world – just 4 per cent of the population.

Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, chief adviser for religious and cultural affairs and personal envoy of King Abdullah II of Jordan, acknowledged the Prince’s record in defending Muslims…

 The Prince is particularly known for his work in building bridges between Islam and the West. In a speech at Al-Azhar University in Cairo in March 2006, he said:

 “We may have a human weakness to criticise and to compete with each other. But what we have in common, as people of faith, calls us beyond this towards mutual respect and understanding.” The Australian

 Charles was fulsome in praising Jordan’s tolerance of other religions and emphasized how the three ‘Abrahamic faiths’ shared the same values:

… under King Abdullah’s leadership, Jordan is a most heartening and courageous witness to the fruitful tolerance and respect between faith communities.

Surely there is no better time to do so than at Christmas – to remind all of us that an emphasis on love of our neighbours and doing to others as we would have them do to us are the ultimate foundations of truth, justice, compassion and human rights. Such profound wisdom is at the very heart of all three religions…The Age.

Prince Charles has often reached out to Islam. After the 9/11 atrocities, he visited the Suleymaniye mosque in East London, saying

“I very much wanted to come here … to show how much I minded about and care about the Islamic community in this country, particularly at a time when it’s so difficult for everybody.”

He also met Muslim leaders at St James’s Palace, where he praised Islam and criticised America, saying

“I find the language and rhetoric coming from America too confrontational.” 

Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham explained

“His criticism of America was a general one of the Americans not having the appreciation we have for Islam and its culture.”  BBC.  

During a visit to the White House in 2005, Prince Charles tried to persuade President Bush it was not Islam’s fault that thousands of non-Muslims have been murdered in recent years, but rather the racism of the West, especially its intolerance of Islam in the wake of September 11th.

Back in 1994, he announced that upon accession to the throne he intended to change his title from “Defender of the Faith,” to “Defender of Faiths” to reflect Britain’s multifaith society. He also made a speech – acclaimed throughout the Arab world – on relations between Islam and the West, urging the West to overcome its “unthinkable prejudices” about Islam and its customs and laws. He spoke of the West’s debt to the culture of Islam and distanced moderate Muslims from misguided militants, saying

 “Extremism is no more the monopoly of Islam than it is the monopoly of other religions, including Christianity” .

In 2006, on tour in Egypt, he criticised those who published the Danish cartoons, expressing concern over the

‘failure to listen and to respect what is precious and sacred to others.’

Still, it’s commendable that he’s now speaking out; even better had he acknowledged that Christianity is thriving in one place in the Middle East – Israel. Instead, he chose to praise Jordan’s fruitful tolerance and respect between faith communities.

Let’s face it, Jordan hardly has a stellar record on religious tolerance, as Jews are forbidden to live there. Civil Law No. 6, which governed the Jordanian-occupied Judaea and Samaria, states explicitly:

“Any man will be a Jordanian subject if he is not Jewish.”

Jewish Virtual Library.

 Even Jewish visitors are treated with hostility; Ilan Ben Zion reported:

The Jordanian Tourism Ministry warned Israeli visitors not to wear

“Jewish dress” or perform “religious rituals in public places”

so as to prevent an unfriendly reaction by Jordanian citizens.

Earlier in 2012, six Israeli tourists were assaulted in a market in southern Jordan after vendors were angered by their traditional Jewish skullcaps.

The six men and women arrived at a market in the town of Rabba… when one of the vendors identified the tourists as Israeli due to mens’ skullcaps, which “provoked the sensibilities of the vendors,” independent daily Al-Arab Al-Yawm reported. The Times of Israel.

Jordan’s not that great towards Christians either – contrary to Charles’ assertions:

… leaving Islam is not officially recognised and public evangelisation of Muslims is against government policy. Converts encounter discrimination and the threat of mental and physical abuse. Radical Islamists are becoming more active in society and there have been reports of violence and killings of Muslim-background believers.

Islam is the religion of the state. Personal status legal code is based on religious law, implying that Sharia is applied to all those whom the state regards as Muslim. However, leaving Islam is not officially recognised and Muslims who become Christians still fall under the jurisdiction of Sharia courts, which means their marriages can be annulled and custody of their children can be taken from them. Though the state does not play an active role in this, it is permissive. Open Doors

Surely at Christmas, Charles’ could have emulated courageous Middle East Christians and acknowledged the freedoms enjoyed by all religions in Israel:

 On December 6, the son of Nazareth priest, Fr. Gabriel Naddaf, was assaulted and beaten.  Fr. Naddaf, who is Greek Orthodox, has received death threats for years.

In the Middle East, persecution against the region’s ancient churches continues to smolder, flare and rage out of control. Inflamed by Islamist ideology and specifically targeting Christians, brutality has escalated to unprecedented levels.

The cradle of Christianity is all but going up in flames.

Meanwhile, despite threats about Iran’s nukes and Hamas’ warnings of a third intifada, some Arabic-speaking Christians in Israel are well aware that they live in the region’s only safe haven for their faith. And they have decided to do more than give thanks.

They want to defend their homeland, and a number of them have chosen to take action. Not only do they want to serve in the IDF, but they also are forming a political party and seeking reforms in Israel’s educational system, insisting that its curriculum include Christian history alongside that of Judaism and Islam.

Father Gabriel Naddaf leads this movement.  He is articulate, bold and outspoken. He explained to the Jerusalem Report

“We want to be fully integrated into Israeli society… This land is holy to us too, and we are partners in it. We live under its protection and we should protect it along with its citizens.”

Speaking at a September Jerusalem conference, Fr. Naddaf, Capt. Bishara Shlayan, and a Christian IDF reserve officer, Lt. Shaadi Khalloul, offered their historical perspective.

Technically they are not Arabs,  but are part of an ancient Christian community — a community that did not convert to Islam during the Muslims’ Seventh Century invasion.

“I think we should be referred to as Israeli-Christians,”

Capt. Shlayan affirmed, rejecting the Arab-Christian label.  

“Yes, we speak Arabic. But our nationality is Israeli. And our religion is Christian.”

In fact, they are not only Christian Israelis, they are Zionists.

Theologically grounded in Aramaic and Assyriac liturgy and worship, this population has followed Jesus of Nazareth since he walked among them. Many of them even hail from Nazareth, his hometown – now Israel’s largest Arab city.

In their view, their spiritual heritage has been nearly forgotten, apart from within their churches. At the same time, neighboring Muslims harass and threaten harm while attempting to eradicate Christian shrines, signs and symbols.

In the meantime, thanks to Naddaf and his colleagues’ efforts, the number of Arabic-speaking Christians who have enlisted in the IDF has seen a threefold increase since 2010. The Times of Israel remarked that the number is sufficient to enrage Arab community leaders and politicians.

Naddaf says

“My son very much wants to enlist, and serve in a combat unit… The country gives him his rights, and should receive what it is due in return. We all need to live here in peace, and protect the existence of the country that we live in, since our future is here.”

Fr. Naddaf has found a strong ally in Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who commented

“I have heard about the threats of physical attacks by extremist elements in Israeli society against Christians, Christian Arabs who want to enlist in the IDF, who want to be part of the State of Israel. Against these people is an extremist group that is threatening them. We will not tolerate this; I will not tolerate this. We will use all of our tools to stop these thugs and we will allow whoever – Christian, Muslim and Druze – wants to link their fate even more to the State of Israel and wants to serve in the IDF to do so. We will protect them.” Fox News

It’s disappointing that the Royal Family have frequently visited Islamic countries, but, with the exception of Prince Phillip, whose mother was a righteous gentile, never paid a formal visit to Israel, the birthplace of Christianity:

During World War II, Princess Alice lived in the Athens palace of her brother in law, Prince George of Greece, and worked with the Swedish and Swiss Red Cross. She found herself in the difficult situation of having sons-in-law fighting on the German side and a son (the future Prince Philip) in the British Royal Navy.

The Greek royal family had been well acquainted with the family of Haimaki Cohen, a Jew and former MP, from Tricala, in northern Greece. In 1941, when Germany invaded Greece, the family fled to Athens…in 1943, following Italy’s surrender to the Allies, the Germans occupied Athens and the hunt for Jews began. By that time Haimaki Cohen had died. His widow, Rachel, and her five children were looking for a place of refuge. ..Princess Alice heard of the family’s desperate situation and offered to shelter Rachel and her daughter, Tilde, at her home.

The Cohens stayed in Princess Alice’s residence until liberation. There were times when the Germans became suspicious, and Princess Alice was even interviewed by the Gestapo. Using her deafness, she pretended not to understand their questions until they left her alone.

In 1993 Yad Vashem bestowed the title of Righteous Among the Nations on Princess Alice. A year later, her children,  Prince Philip – the Duke of Edinburgh – and Princess George of Hanover traveled to Yad Vashem and planted the tree in her honor. During the ceremony, Prince Philip said: ” I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress.Yad Vashem

If only Prince Charles had followed the example of his paternal grandmother, showing courage and leadership. Standing up for Israel would indeed have exemplified all the values he claims to uphold “truth, justice, compassion and human rights”.

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3 comments

  1. It is a real shame that it takes people a very long hit to remove the rafter from their eye. There are still too many Christians who regrettably believe that Islam is another Abrahamic religion that can co-exist with Judaism and Chrsitianity. Islam is not Abrahamic and we can never co-exist with a political ideology like Islam, a bankrupt religion that is worse than Nazism.

    It is good that Prince Charles has finally accepted the truth regarding the plight of Christians in the middle east. The next step – Western governments need to stop Muslim immigration and start repatriations.