Prince Charles of Wales has said that is "heartbreaking" that so many Christians are being persecuted for their faith and quoted Scripture while vowing to "fervently pray" for them.
During a visit to London's Syriac Orthodox Church in Acton, the Prince restated his concern for Christians in the Middle East and called for peace. Charles made his comments to His Eminence Archbishop Athanasius and a large congregation, including some refugees who were forced to flee the Iraqi city of Mosul after Islamic State militants invaded, and others of whom had family members in Iraq and Syria.
The Prince said: "This is the third visit that I have paid in recent weeks to churches whose congregations have the soul-destroying experience of inhuman persecution. In this Advent season, a season of celebration, it is the more profoundly heart-breaking that so many Christians are being persecuted for their faith.
"For more than 20 years I have tried to build bridges between people of different faiths and have appealed for greater understanding, for greater tolerance and for harmony between the great religions of the world. At a time when so little is held sacred, it is quite literally diabolical that these symbolic bridges should be so destroyed."
The Prince said he is "deeply distressed" at the horrific scenes from the Middle East and thanked the media for "helping to ensure that the world is not allowed to forget the stark horror of what is happening in Iraq and Syria; not to forget our brothers and sisters whose faith is, quite literally, under fire; not to forget the unimaginable barbarity to which they have been exposed; not to forget the many, many people who have been savagely murdered or who have died fleeing violence; not to forget those who have lost everything, including their houses; not to forget that countless thousands have had to leave the places in which their families have lived for innumerable generations".
Charles also expressed heartfelt sympathy to those in attendance who had been affected by the tragedies occurring in the Middle East. "The anguish of all this does not bear thinking about, and my heart goes out to you all," he said.
He added that while it may be difficult for them to return at the Middle East at this time, "I do pray most fervently that the situation there will change; that peace will return; that the time will come when you feel it is safe to return to your homeland and that, once there, you will be free, together with those of other religions, to celebrate your faith without any fear of persecution."
The Prince concluded by quoting Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4: 8-12 beginning, "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed."