Prince Hassan bin Talal, brother of the late King Hussein of Jordan, is worried about the future of Christians all over the Arab world, including the Holy Landthe name he gives to the combined area of Israel, the Palestinian region, and his homeland of Jordan. The prince holds two degrees from Oxford University and is renowned worldwide for his views on the relationship of religion and society. He often talks about religion in cultural rather than theological terms, approaching religious issues fundamentally from the viewpoint of the secular state's compelling intereststhe reduction of unhealthy political disputes, terrorism, and religious wars.
The prince has been working to ensure that those of disparate religions in the Middle East can learn to live with one another in an atmosphere of mutual respect. He doesn't want any religious groups to disappear, because he feels they all have something to offer society. Most importantly, he has devoted himself to bolstering the Christian community, one of the most threatened religious bodies in the region, especially in Muslim-majority nations.
Jordan receives good marks for its protection of religious freedom. Jordanian Christians, mostly Eastern Orthodox believers, are active at all levels of society and some serve in Jordanian Parliament. Cornelis Hulsman, editor of the Arab-West Report and based in Cairo, interviewed Prince Hassan, a welcome friend of the Christian community in the Middle East, during the prince's recent visit to Egypt.
You have been interested in Arab Christianity for many years. How did your interest develop?
In the 1960s, I studied Hebrew and the history of our region at the Institute of Oriental Studies at the University of Oxford. That gave me an ...