HRH The Prince of Wales offered a heart-felt message of compassion for Christians persecuted because of their faith at an event where he met families who have escaped terror and upheaval.
The Prince was guest-of-honour at St Barnabas Church, in London’s Pimlico district, at a service organised by the local Eastern-rite Melkite Greek Catholic community in cooperation with the parish Church.
Before the service, HRH met Church leaders and individuals with first-hand experience of persecution, a number of them supported by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which arranged for them to take part in the event.
In his speech to the congregation, The Prince said: “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 heart-breaking 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.”
The Prince met Sameer Polus, his wife, Ban, and their children, Jolia, 20, Peter, 17, and 16-year-old Sofia. The family began life in Baghdad, Iraq, but fled to Syria in 2004 following extremist attacks on Christians.
They returned to their country of origin 11 years later only to find themselves fleeing Daesh (ISIS) before finally gaining settlement in the UK through a UN resettlement scheme.
Before the Prince’s speech, the packed congregation heard a talk given by Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam John Darwish of Zahle, Furzol and Bekaa in eastern Lebanon, who travelled to London to take part in the event on Tuesday (19th December).
Highlighting the number of refugees in Lebanon supported by his Church with help from Aid to the Church in Need, the Archbishop said: “In Iraq and Syria and other parts of the Middle East, the ever-dwindling Christian community is now hanging by a thread.
“Another blast of extremist terror could extinguish the light of Christian presence that was first lit when… Christ was born.
“May I please convey my special thanks to you, Your Royal Highness, for hearing our cry, for responding to our needs, for supporting us here and now with your presence amongst us.”
Welcoming The Prince to the church was Father John Pearson-Hicks, Priest in Charge at St Barnabas Church, and Father Shafiq Abouzayd, representing the local Melkite community.
- To read The Prince of Wales’ full speech please visit their website