Prince Charles praises 'inspiring faith' of persecuted Christians

ReutersPrince Charles said persecuted Christians modelled 'extraordinary grace'

The Prince of Wales has paid tribute to the faith and courage of Christians around the world being persecuted for their beliefs.

Prince Charles made the comments during a special service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the contribution of Christians in the Middle East.

In his reflection, he spoke of the many Christians he had met over the years 'who, with such inspiring faith and courage, are battling oppression and persecution, or who have fled to escape it'.

He also praised their 'extraordinary grace and capacity for forgiveness' in refusing to retaliate against those who have persecuted them.

'It is one thing to believe in God who forgives; it is quite another to take that example to heart and actually to forgive, with the whole heart, "those who trespass against you" so grievously,' he said.

'So, 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.

'They are an inspiration to the whole church, and to all people of goodwill.'

The Prince of Wales went on to speak of how Christians, Muslims and Jews in parts of the Middle East are supporting one another and living peacefully together.

'Throughout history, in these lands which are the cradle of faith for Jews, Muslims and Christians, communities of different beliefs have shown that it is possible to live side by side as neighbours and friends,' he said.

He continued: 'Co-existence and understanding are not just possible, therefore; they are confirmed by hundreds of years of shared experience. Extremism and division are by no means inevitable.'

Other special guests at the service included the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London, Archbishop Angaelos. 

Archbishop Welby said: 'I am so thankful that His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, has taken the interest and time to give this matter the priority it so crucially deserves at a time when many thousands are suffering displacement, persecution, and some even the tragic loss of loved ones.' 

Archbishop Angaelos said it was important that churches and governments work together to provide 'tangible and holistic solutions to the immense challenges' faced by persecuted Christians.

'Core to this is also keeping this matter alive and relevant in the eyes, hearts and minds of our global community,' he said.

'We pray, as we continue to come together for those who struggle and suffer, that they are comforted and supported by the grace of God and by our collective interest and action in and for them as individuals and communities.'

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