Prince Charles has said religious freedom should be embedded in school culture or we could face a “totalitarian society”.
His comments came as he opened the International Ministerial Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief on Tuesday, attended by more than 600 delegates from 100 countries and multilateral organisations around the world.
They included Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi, the Most Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Sheikh Abdallah Bin-bayyah, an Islamic scholar, and Archbishop Bashar Warda of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq.
In a pre-recorded video statement, Prince Charles warned that the world is “at crossroads between totalitarian and liberal societies” as he called for freedom of religious belief to be embedded in education, business and on social media.
‘We stand at a crossroads’
He Prince told the conference, organised by the Foreign Office and held at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London: “The rights to freedom of religion or belief is enshrined in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“We must do all in our collective power to ensure that this commitment is met with deeds, not just words. This essential principle must be embedded in government, education, business, the media, and social media and right across our communities. For the next two days, you will be taking that all-important task forward.
“We stand at a crossroads, ladies and gentlemen. There is a choice to be made between totalitarian and liberal societies.
“The lights of our collective faith can do much to illuminate the darkness in our world. That is why I’m so hugely encouraged by your coming together so that you can share your experiences and your values and reinforce the rights to be free.”
More than 80 per cent of the world’s population live in countries where freedom of religious belief is under threat.
Religion ‘collateral damage’ of Ukraine war
Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, also gave a keynote address to the conference and described freedom of religious belief as “fundamental” and akin to free speech or democracy.
In her speech, the minister criticised the “appalling persecution of the Jewish community over centuries”, China’s targeting of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, the persecution of Christians in Nigeria and the plight of minorities in Afghanistan.
She referred to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the impact it has on people’s ability to practice their faith, saying the UK would not rest until “your people are free to live, believe and thrive”.
She added: “Innocent civilians are having to shelter from Russia’s indiscriminate bombardment in places of worship. Churches, synagogues, and mosques have been reduced to rubble. Religion is proving to be collateral damage from Putin’s aggression.”