The Prince of Wales has spoken of his heartbreak at Christian persecution in the Middle East as he called on believers in the UK to step up their response to the crisis.
In a moving speech on Tuesday Prince Charles said Christians in Syria, Iraq and other countries in the Middle East face 'troubled times' and 'desperate trials' as he urged prayers for those 'forced to leave their homes in the face of the most brutal persecution on account of their faith'.
In a service at St Barnabas Church, Pimlico, with the Melkite Archbishop of Zahle, Furzol and Bekka, His Royal Highness said he was 'profoundly shocked' at the levels of abuse faced by Christians.
'Such barbaric persecution is even more perverse and dreadful when as many Christians seem unaware,' he said, calling on Western Christians to pray and support those facing attacks in the Middle East.
'As someone who, throughout my life, has tried, in whatever small way I can, to foster understanding between people of faith, and to build bridges between the great religions of the world, it is heartbreaking beyond words to see just how much pain and suffering is being endured by Christians, in this day and age, simply because of their faith.
'As Christians we remember, of course, how Our Lord called upon us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute. But for those confronted with such hatred and oppression, I can only begin to imagine how incredibly hard it must be to follow Christ's example,' he said.
Making open reference to his personal faith and 'our belief that Christ has come, and that He is present in the world today', Prince Charles urged Christians to pray and 'commit to doing what each of us can to help ensure that those who are suffering have a brighter year ahead than the one that has passed'.
He said: 'It is so vitally important, in this season of Advent and throughout the year, that Christians in this country and elsewhere, who enjoy the rights of freedom of worship and freedom of expression, do not take those rights for granted; and that we remember, and do what we can to support, our fellow Christians for whom the denial of such rights has had such profound and painful consequences.'
But he was careful not to lay the blame on Muslims for Christian persecution.
'The true spirit of reverence, which Muslims display towards Jesus and his mother Mary springs from the fountain head of their faith as described in the Koran,' he said.