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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Kennedy campaign for the Lib Dems earlier this year in Bearsden  

Charles Kennedy: A brilliant man whose talents were badly needed

Baroness Williams
Nick Clegg (R) Liberal Democrat Leader and former leader Charles Kennedy MP, joined the general election campaign trail on April 8, 2010  

Charles Kennedy: The only mainstream political leader who spoke sense

Tim Farron
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific