The Prince of Wales has once again spoken of his ‘heartbreak’ over the persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria.
He’s been meeting members of St Yeghiche Armenian Church in London as part of his efforts to encourage inter faith dialogue.
He took part at a service where prayers were said for those suffering because of their faith, premier.org.uk reports.
Speaking during it he said: “It is literally heartbreaking to learn of the attacks on Christians and on the churches where they gather, such as the mindless, brutal destruction of the Armenian church in Deir el-Zor earlier this year.”
He went on to praise those who’ve suffered for standing up to adversity: “I greatly admire the courage and faith of your flock who are an example to us all of faith quite literally under such grotesque and barbarous assault.”
Earlier this month the Prince gave a video message for the charity Aid to the Church in Need to launch their report into “Religious Freedom in the World.”
At the time he said: “The horrendous and heart-breaking events in Iraq and Syria have brought the subject of religious freedom and persecution to the forefront of the world’s news.
“It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East; an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years, and across which Islam spread in 700AD, with people of different faiths living together peaceably for centuries.”
In December 2013 The Prince expressed concern about the current challenges facing Christians in some Middle-Eastern nations and visited the Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in Stevenage and the Syrian Orthodox Church in Acton to find out more.
Armenian Archbishop of Iraq Avak Asadourian said that until relatively recently Iraq had been a good and innocent place to live. The coup of 1958 followed by four wars since 1980 had destroyed the fabric of Iraqi society, the Christian Today reports.
“The last of these was the ill-advised war of 2003. For 11 years now we have had a destroyed infra-structure,” said the Archbishop, describing high-level corruption, a school system that has broken down and ongoing violence between rival sects as the conditions Iraqis live under now.
While in 1980 there were about 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, there are now about 400,000 and numbers continue to dwindle.
“If political measures are not adopted very soon, then Christianity in its eastern manifestation will cease to exist in its own birthplace. If this comes to pass, how sad it will be for all of us.”
Armenians in Syria, where they have been settled since 1915, have also become a target during the fighting there with schools and churches vulnerable to arson attacks. Many Armenians have fled from Syria back to Armenia. The Diocese of the Armenian Church of the UK and Ireland has raised £15,000 to help the Armenians of Syria during the past year.
The Prince of Wales visited Armenia in May 2013. The cathedral is one of two Armenian churches in London, St Yeghiche and St Sarkis, also in Kensington. St Yeghiche, formerly known as St Peter’s, is a former Anglican Church which was closed in around 1973 and taken over by the Armenians in 1998. It has been restored and refurbished and is now an extraordinarily beautiful Victorian neo-gothic gem with a seating capacity of 1,000.
The first Armenian Church built in the UK is the Holy Trinity Church in Manchester which was built and consecrated in 1860.