Prince El Hassan: Christians are “the richness of the tapestry of this pluralist region”

(Vatican Radio) “To lose Christianity from the birthplace of Christianity” in the Middle East “would be to lose the richness of the tapestry of this pluralist region:” that’s according to Jordan’s Prince El Hassan Bin Talal who granted an exclusive interview to Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure at the Royal Palace in Amman.

In this part one of a two-part interview, HRH Prince El Hassan describes the Islamic State militants (Daesh in Arabic) as the “cold-hearted, dead hearted human beings in name only” who are killing and terrorizing both Muslims and Christians in Iraq and Syria. His Royal Highness said: “The fact that the Christians are suffering is abhorrent to all of us, but the reality is that we are one community: Christians of Arab culture, Muslims of Arab culture. We have built the wombs of civilization over thousands of years together. Inasmuch as losing Jews of Arab culture would also do the same.”

“It is absolutely essential to recognize that we have to develop a new template of hope,” he added.

Prince El Hassan called for the establishment of a “Vatican-type consultation” comprising the juridical schools of Sunni and Shiite Islam and the Ibadi (Oman and Algeria) to be held in the holy city of Mecca, “the capital of all Muslims.” Asked if the creation of such a central Islamic authority in Mecca is a key factor to the efficacy of inter-religious dialogue, his Royal Highness replied that it will create “a point of reference for discussion with the Vatican and with religious and holy cities.”

“The symbolism of Mecca is wasted if we do not create such a dialogue which is in the word ‘shura,’ (consultation) a part of Muslim belief.” He also urged the creation of a “universal zakat” or charitable foundation that “could put the smile on the face of millions of people. After all, let us not forget that 70 per cent of the world’s refugees are Muslims! What are we wealthy Muslims doing about it?” And, “If there is money being spent, it’s being spent on the very weapons that we’re bombing each other with.”

Prince El Hassan, who has been at the forefront of interfaith dialogue for many years, visited Pope Francis in the Vatican in September. He expressed his hope that Pope Francis’ possible visit next year to the United Nations would offer the opportunity for the world to call for a “new international, binding, humanitarian order that proscribes conflict, that prescribes the creation of humanitarian interventions.”

Jordan, a country which historically has welcomed millions of Palestinian and other refugees, has been struggling over the last three years to offer hospitality to more than 1.5 million refugees who have fled the conflict in neighboring Syria. Since Daesh’s savage campaign last summer to rid Iraq of its ancient Christian community, the Kingdom has also received some 5,000 Iraqi Christian refugees who escaped from Mosul and the Ninevah Plains. The rising number of refugees has put considerable strain on the population of Jordan which now approaches 11 million.

Prince El Hassan reflected on the humanitarian crisis facing the region: “I don’t think there is going to be any more room for refugee camps anywhere in the region. I don’t believe in refugee camps. I believe in humanitarian zones to be set up on the borders of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey respectively. I think that the sooner that these are set up also on Syrian soil the better.”

Christian aid and development agencies like Caritas Jordan are doing what they can to help the Muslim and Christian victims of conflict. Prince El Hassan described…