His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales has recently spoken on the BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, a radio show in which speakers discuss various issues and events in the news from a religious perspective, typically but not always a Christian one. It was his third address given on the show since his first speech in 1995.
HRH has used his time on the show to deliver his Christmas message and speak out against what he saw as a “rising tide of populism” that was increasingly aggressive towards minority faiths, one that he saw as disturbingly reminiscent of “the dark days” of the 1930s. Coming not long after participating in the consecration ceremony of the first Syriac Orthodox Church in London for the incoming Christian refugees from Syria, the message carried a rather pained quality of someone who was truly at a loss to understand how the world was plunging to such depths.
The Prince reminded listeners that it was his parents’ generation who fought and died during the Second World War, fighting against “intolerance, extremism, and an inhuman attempt to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe”. He then remarked that it was “beyond belief” to be seeing that same extremism seventy years onward.
Naturally, HRH did not mention any specific names or groups, but it would appear that he is at least indirectly referring to the recent election of Donald Trump to the office of President of the United States, as well as the rise of populist politics in Europe in response to the growing pressures of the refugee crisis. Donald Trump has incited controversy over his remarks that illegal Mexican immigrants were “rapists and drug dealers”, as well as campaign promises calling for a compulsory registry of Islamic citizens and the construction of a wall along the US-Mexican border.
Prince Charles further mentioned a discussion he had with a Jesuit priest who had recently been ministering within Syria, in which the Prince was informed of numerous crimes committed against the indigenous Assyrian Christian population by local extremists. Among those crimes was mass kidnappings and persecutions, and the attempted eviction or destruction of some of the most ancient Christian communities in the world within the very same lands described in the Bible. The Jesuit priest in question offered a very bleak prediction that within another five years the Christian population of Syria and Iraq will be completely extinct.
In addition to the Assyrian population, pressure and violence have also been utilised against the local Yazidi and Shia Muslim populations within afflicted zones.
Prince Charles stated that religious freedom for those dwelling within Syria was a very stark choice between life and death.
To further demonstrate the point, a UN statistic was cited reporting that 63.5 million people were forced to abandon their homes in 2015 alone, up from 59.5 million the previous year, nearly the entire population of the United Kingdom.
Calling upon religious narrative, the Prince remarked that the story of the Nativity unfolds with the Holy Family fleeing the Massacre of the Innocents instigated by King Herod the Great, whereupon they sought refuge in the neighbouring Roman province of Egypt. He also recalled that Muhammed and his followers were forced to flee from Mecca to Medina in search of a place where they could practice their newfound faith freely without fear of persecution.
HRH concluded these stories by saying, “Whichever religious path we follow, the destination is the same – to value and respect the other person, accepting their right to live out their peaceful response to the love of God.”
Prince Charles’s comments were welcomed by several figures within the media, who understood that the Prince of Wales was bound by protocol to not mention specific names. Labour MEP Claude Morales regarded it as a “good intervention” in a topic often dominated by the right-wing press and alarmist demagogues.