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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

21st December 2015

Remembering Middle-Eastern Christians

© Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk
© Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk
HRH The Prince of Wales meets Syrian and Iraqi Christians and representatives of those suffering persecution in the Middle East. 17 December 2015 © Mazur/catholicnews.org.uk

As we celebrate Christmas, it is right to think of those Christian families who will find it difficult to enjoy the good cheer that we take for granted at this time. They are those who are being persecuted or discriminated against for their faith, who are refugees because they were forced to flee for their lives from those like Daesh that would kill them, who no longer have a place that they can call “home”. Their plight, especially of the many Christian communities under threat in the Middle East, was highlighted by a recent conference at the Vatican called “Under Caesar’s Sword”.

Several of the participants, most notably those from the region, led by the Eastern Church Patriarchs Louis Raphael I Sako and Mor Ignatius Youssef III Younan, said that one of the toughest aspects of life for persecuted Christians in countries like Iraq and Syria was the sense that they were forgotten, abandoned. They asked not only that fellow Christians elsewhere in the world should pray for them, but that all people of goodwill would continue to speak out about them and their difficulties.

They are right. Without memory we are lost. So I was pleased to see recent high profile events in London that did just that – remembered the plight of persecuted Middle Eastern Christians, and called for action to protect them and help them.

The first was at the last Prime Minister’s Question Time in the House of Commons before Christmas, when the Prime Minister was asked about persecuted Christians. In his answer, he said that “we should do everything we can to defend and protect the right of Christians to practise their faith the world over. That is an important part of our foreign policy.” The plight of persecuted Christians is raised regularly in Parliament by members of all political parties. This was a clear statement from the Prime Minister that they are not forgotten.

The second event was an Advent reception hosted by Cardinal Nichols at Archbishop’s House in London. HRH The Prince of Wales was the guest of honour. Representatives from the Chaldean Catholic, Syriac Catholic, Maronite Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Greek Catholic Melkite Churches were present. The Prince also met guests and representatives from charities including Iraqi Christians in Need, Friends of the Holy Land, Aid to the Church in Need and Jesuit Refugee Service. The gathering heard choral pieces by the Chaldean Church’s adult and children’s choirs. The event concluded with intercessory prayers for Christians and other minorities suffering persecution in the Middle-East.

Both His Royal Highness and Cardinal Nichols spoke. The Prince of Wales said that the suffering of Christians in the Middle East, alongside that of people of all faiths caught up in the region’s conflicts, “is symptomatic of a very real crisis which threatens the very existence of Christianity in the land of its birth… Consequently, the greatest challenge we face is how to ensure that the spiritual and cultural heritage of Christianity in the Middle East is preserved for future generations – quite apart from doing all we can to provide practical support to those who are persecuted.” Cardinal Nichols reminded the gathering that: “many who are not Christians are being slaughtered: indeed the majority are Muslims and Yazidis. But at this time of Christmas and in this country there should be a particular concern for those who suffer for the name of Jesus Christ.”

May all of us at the British Embassy to the Holy See take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read this blog over the last year on Twitter, LinkedIn, Vatican Insider or the other platforms where it can be found, and especially those who have responded and commented. We wish you all a merry and tranquil Christmas and happy New Year.

1 comment on “Remembering Middle-Eastern Christians

  1. Thank yo, dear Ambassador, for the timely comment regarding the suffering of those persecuted for their Christian faith in the 21st c.
    Tamara Grdzelidze

Comments are closed.

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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