HRH The Prince of Wales presents ‘Thought for the Day’ on BBC Radio 4

Source: Prince Of Wales website

In London recently I met a Jesuit priest from Syria.  He gave me a graphic account of what life is like for those Christians he was forced to leave behind.  He told me of mass kidnappings in parts of Syria and Iraq and how he feared that Christians will be driven en masse out of lands described in the Bible.  He thought it quite possible there will be no Christians in Iraq within five years.  Clearly, for such people, religious freedom is a daily, stark choice between life and death.

The scale of religious persecution around the world is not widely appreciated.  Nor is it limited to Christians in the troubled regions of the Middle East.  A recent report suggests that attacks are increasing on Yazidis, Jews, Ahmadis, Baha’is and many other minority faiths.  And in some countries even more insidious forms of extremism have recently surfaced, which aim to eliminate all types of religious diversity.

We are also struggling to capture the immensity of the ripple effect of such persecution.  According to the United Nations, 5.8 million MORE people abandoned their homes in 2015 than the year before, bringing the annual total to a staggering 65.3 million.  That is almost equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom.

And the suffering doesn’t end when they arrive seeking refuge in a foreign land.  We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive towards those who adhere to a minority faith.

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