Prince Charles has said it is his “dearest wish” that Palestinians see “freedom, justice and equality” in the future.
Speaking during his historic first visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the royal said there should be an end to the “suffering and division” in Bethlehem.
Image: The Prince of Wales visits the Mosque of Omar and signs the visitor book
The Prince of Wales’s words of support came as US President Donald Trump was expected to unveil his long-awaited Middle East peace plan.
But the initiative, intended to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is thought to be an unfavourable one for Palestinians with the Israelis reportedly set to receive territory gains and other concessions.
“It breaks my heart, therefore, that we should continue to see so much suffering and division,” Charles said.
“No-one arriving in Bethlehem today could miss the signs of continued hardship and the situation you face, and I can only join you, and all communities, in your prayers for a just and lasting peace.
“We must pursue this cause with faith and determination, striving to heal the wounds which have caused such pain. It is my dearest wish that the future will bring freedom, justice and equality to all Palestinians, enabling you to thrive and to prosper.”
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There were clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers outside the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City early on Friday.
Charles’ first engagement on Palestinian land was to visit the Mosque of Omar on Manger Square, where he heard how Christians and Muslims had lived peacefully alongside each other in Bethlehem for centuries.
Image: Prince Charles’s signature in the mosque’s visitor book
A huge bustling crowd of security men, religious clerics, press and the royal entourage – with the prince just about visible – then walked from the mosque to the Church of the Nativity, built on the site where Jesus is said to have been born.
The Omar mosque is named after the Caliph Omar, who conquered Jerusalem in 637 but guaranteed that Christians would be free to continue to worship.
His promise was laid out in the Assurance of Omar, a copy of which was given to the prince.
The governor of Bethlehem Kamel Hmeid told Charles how followers of the two religions lived a peaceful coexistence in the historic town, and recounted the story of how Omar was invited to pray inside the Church of the Nativity.
The Prince of Wales has sent out a strong message of support to Palestinians during his visit to Bethlehem. He said “It is my dearest wish that the future will bring freedom, justice and equality to all Palestinians, enabling you to thrive and to prosper.” pic.twitter.com/VOHaDBnWW7
— Rhiannon Mills (@SkyRhiannon) January 24, 2020
He refused, saying that if he did it would become a mosque. Instead he prayed outside.
The message of religious co-existence was, said Charles, “a wonderful example”. The prince had earlier signed the visitors’ book in English and Arabic.
The Prince of Wales is on a two-day trip to the Middle East, meeting the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, Holocaust survivors and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Image: Prince Charles met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
“I have been tremendously struck by the energy, warmth, and remarkable generosity of the Palestinian people,” the heir to the throne said.
“It has been humbling and profoundly moving to have taken my place in the long line of pilgrims who have journeyed to this special place of such great significance.”
Sky News royal correspondent Rhiannon Mills, in Bethlehem, said “meetings like this are extremely rare”.
Mills said: “Of course, for the Prince of Wales, politics is not why he is here. He really wants to focus on religious tolerance and wants to make sure people of different religious faiths can live alongside each other.”
The governor of Bethlehem said afterwards: “The strongest message from Bethlehem is that we are proud as Palestinians, Muslims and Christians, to live here together.
“We send this message all round the world, that in the Holy Land we can live a normal life, with love between Muslims and Christians. The people live together – working, learning, eating, doing everything together.
“We want to live in peace. We want to live in an independent democratic state with Jerusalem as the capital.”
He said the prince was “very interested” in every detail of the mosque, “he asked about the poor people, how we can help them”.
Source : Sky News