Yesterday, from the pulpit of Westminster Abbey, the Prince of Wales made a plea for peace; and not only peace, but for reconciliation. And not only did he make a plea for peace and reconciliation, but a proclamation of the resilience and perseverance of suffering Christians in the Middle East. “We pray for all the people of the Holy Land and the surrounding nations. We pray that they may live in harmony with one another,” said the Dean. But Charles’ mind was on a specific community of a particular faith: “They are an inspiration to the whole church,” he said, mindful of those who have been crucified, beheaded, drowned, burned alive, or forced to flee for their lives from the murderous threats if ISIS. “Those who remain faithful in suffering are beacons,” declared the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the congregation lit candles to remember the Light of the World. You want to see a witness? The persecuted faithful of the Middle East have found their advocate: the future Defender of the Faith is a defender of the faithful persecuted for Jesus’ sake:
…in coming together today, we can only give thanks for the truly remarkable strength of the Faith with which so many Christians face persecution, and which gives them the courage and the determination to endure, and to overcome.
This wasn’t the first time he has pointed the eyes of the world to what is going on in the Middle East. In December 2014 he spoke of the “unbearable suffering” and “indescribable agony” of Iraq’s Christians. Their eradication is “beyond belief”, he said. This came just a month after his ‘pastoral letter‘ to the suffering church:
…we are living in a world in which we are frequently presented with so many profoundly disheartening news stories, yet it is important that, on a personal level, we do not lose hope. And this is why I was encouraged to see the story of Meriam Ibrahim feature in this report. Imprisoned in Sudan, pregnant, and facing a death sentence for reportedly converting to Christianity, Meriam remained true to her beliefs.
It is cases such as that of Meriam, who was eventually released, that remind us of St Paul’s words, so relevant to all of those enduring persecution for their faith, that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. And hope does not disappoint us.
These matters clearly weigh heavily on his mind:
So in this season of Advent, as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, who Himself knew exile, injustice and suffering, I can only assure you of our steadfast support and most heartfelt prayers as you take forward your works of restoration, justice and healing, so that God’s will might be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
The future Defender of the Faith will ascend the Throne (D.V.) at a time when the people of the Faith have never been more in need of a defender, and nowhere now more so than in the Middle East. Where communities of more than a million have been systematically ‘cleansed’ to just a few hundred thousand, it is no wonder that people talk of the extinction of Christianity in the lands where the Good News was first proclaimed. The mainstream media isn’t overly interested: we might get a few column inches when an archbishop speaks. But when Charles, Prince of Wales, takes to the pulpit, the whole world hears of the historic Faith, of eschatological revelation, of apocalyptic suffering, of a man called Jesus, of the coming Kingdom, of salvation’s imminence, of hope, of peace, of reconciliation, and of societal transformation.
Prince Charles has found his divine vocation and service to humanity: it is to witness to Jesus’ death on the Cross by identifying with the persecuted and reckoning with what it means to be a peacemaker; to be called a child of God. Long may he prevail.