Will Prince Charles, the 'Defender of Faiths', stand up for Christians in Israel?

In parts of the Middle East the West appears powerless to help beleaguered Christians

Share
Related Topics

The Prince of Wales has often spoken of aspiring, when he is King, to be known not as Defender of the (Anglican) Faith, but “Defender of Faiths”. His open attitude towards other religions has been established long enough for him not to need to worry of being accused of Islamophobia.

But recent events in the Middle East have forced him into an intervention he would have been happy to avoid.

“Christianity was, literally, born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ”,  he said at an interfaith gathering in Clarence House. And he urged Christians, Muslims and Jews to unite in “outrage” as he warned of the elimination of Christianity in much of the region in which it developed.

The problem is becoming especially acute in Syria and Iraq, where the West appears powerless to help beleaguered Christians. But is the Prince aware of what is happening in the actual places where Christ was born and grew up, and where international pressure could be very effective?

When I was in Israel a year ago there was talk of an passing urgent bylaw which would have criminalised the placing of anything resembling a Christmas Tree in or near restaurants or places of entertainment. This did not actually happen, but it is typical of the Jewish State’s attitude to Christians. 

In 2012 there were 125,000 Palestinian Christians in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem (excluding the West Bank and Gaza), or 2 per cent of Israel’s population, down from 8 per cent in 1946, just before the end of the British Mandate in 1947. In that year, Christians made up 85 per cent of the population of Bethlehem, but by 1998 the figure had declined to 40 per cent. Most left for the lack of economic and educational opportunities, exacerbated by draconian Israeli travel restrictions, and the exodus continues.

It’s worse in Nazereth. The Galillean town, where 2,000 years ago the Angel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she was carrying the son of God in her womb, is a major Christian shrine and its churches attract hundreds of thousands of foreign visitors year round.

When the Israeli army massed against Nazareth in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion stayed the hand of his commanders, fearful that the flight of local Christians would incur the wrath of the Vatican and key international allies. Nazareth was allowed to surrender intact. But it became the flagship of the “Judaization of the Galilee” campaign of 1948, a precursor to the massive settlement project in the Occupied Territories which began 20 years later and is now hindering peace negotiations.

A Jewish town, Upper Nazareth, was established on a bluff above Nazareth with the aim of strangling and intimidating the historic city. Nazareth has survived due to the success of three hospitals, founded there by religious charities more than a century ago, and a dozen private schools, set up by religious orders before Israel’s creation for Christian and Muslim pupils.

According to Jonathan Cook, a Nazareth-based journalist and winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism, this is intolerable to Upper Nazereth’s openly racist Mayor, Shimon Gapso. He has declared the Christian/Muslim town below “a nest of terror” and is demanding that the government declare it “a city hostile to the state of Israel” and expel its residents to Gaza (!). “It is clear Gapso has the full backing of the Israeli government. Like the foolish homeowner struggling with an infestation of vermin, Gapso is set on burning down the house to rid himself of his problem.”

Nor is Gaspo a lone loon. Many of the 60,000 African refugees to fled to Israel for their lives are Christian. Many of them suffered persecution in Sudan and Eritrea because they were Christian. And yet the Israeli government treats them all as criminals – including babies and toddlers born in Israel – and has just appointed a senior official charged with getting rid of them. The first step has been locking them away in prison camps in the desert.

Your Royal Highness, in the Middle East your own faith now needs defending. Please help your brothers and sisters in Christ where you can: in the Holy Land itself.

Christian refugees in peril: Musa Adwok, wearing a cross, has had his face deformed by being tortured in Sudan from where he escaped. The two children were born in Tel Aviv but last year the entire family was forcefully deported to South Sudan, which is on the brink of another civil war. No one has heard from them since. Christian refugees in peril: Musa Adwok, wearing a cross, has had his face deformed by being tortured in Sudan from where he escaped. The two children were born in Tel Aviv but last year the entire family was forcefully deported to South Sudan, which is on the brink of another civil war. No one has heard from them since.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there