Prince Charles Visits Assyrian Christians in London

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The Prince of Wales has condemned the Taliban massacre of Pakistani schoolchildren as a 'sickening' example of those who kill in the name of faith. There has been outrage across the world after gunmen from the Pakistani Taliban went from class to class at the Army Public School in the city of Peshawar killing school children and their teachers.

Prince Charles spoke out against the attacks during a visit to the London Cathedral of a community of Middle Eastern Christians.

Some of the worshippers have fled persecution in their homelands, but in recent months the spread of Islamic State fighters has brought further misery for them as their family members at home in Iraq or Syria have been forced to flee for their lives.

At a special service held in Charles's honour, he told the congregation of the Syriac Orthodox Church, based in East Acton, west London: 'And as I have said before, it seems to me that all faiths to some extent shine a light on the divine image in every human life.

'And if that is so, then surely to destroy another human being is to desecrate the image of the Divine. To do so in the name of faith is, surely, nothing less than a sacrilege.

'I need hardly say that the murder of 141 people, 132 of them children, in Peshawar yesterday by fanatics claiming to act in the name of Islam was a sickening example of such sacrilege.

'But also a horrific reminder that Muslims themselves are the victims of the violent intolerance of the extremists.'

The Cathedral is the focal point for the UK worshippers of the Syriac Orthodox Church whose followers are spread across the Middle East from southern Turkey to Syria, Jordan and parts of India.

Charles had visited St Thomas Cathedral a year ago to the day and like last year he heard the personal stories of those who were living with the knowledge their family and friends were being persecuted in their homelands.

Vean Al-Saka, 35, was comforted by the prince after she burst into tears while explaining how her brother and sister were forced to escape Islamic State fighters.

Ms Al-Saka, who is an undergraduate at Newcastle University, said after meeting Charles: 'I don't know what's happening to them, all I know is they are in tents, they need help, they left everything behind - Charles was very sympathetic.'

The visit was the third that Charles has made in recent weeks to Christian communities in the UK whose families are facing persecution in their homelands.

He said in his speech: 'For now, the possibility of returning to the lands in which your families and communities have lived for so many centuries is, indeed, remote.

'However, I do pray most fervently that the situation there will change; that peace will return; that the time will come when you feel it is safe to return to your homeland and that, once there, you will be free, together with those of other religions, to celebrate your faith without any fear of persecution.'

In his address, Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod, leader of the Syriac Church in the UK, told the prince that he was the 'King of Peace'.

He added: 'Yes, this is the truth and this is how we feel. You have spoken about the plight of the Christians in the Middle East, you have felt the pain and suffering of the indigenous people.'

Before leaving Charles was presented with a necklace for Prince George, traditionally given to newborns in the Syriac community, that was made from gold and featured a tiny bell.

Photo: Prince Charles and Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dakkama.

The Telegraph – UK