Prince Charles has called on faith leaders to ensure their followers respect other religions as he spoke of the 'indescribable tragedy' of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
The Prince said the "horrendous and heart-breaking events" in Iraq and Syria had brought the subject of religious freedom and persecution to the forefront of the world's news.
He said: "We have learnt with mounting despair of the expulsion of Christians, Muslims and Yazidis from towns and cities that their ancestors have occupied for centuries.
"Sadly, incidents of violence in Iraq and Syria are not isolated. They are found throughout some, though not all, of the Middle East; in some African nations; and in many countries across Asia," he added.
His message came in support of Aid to the Church in Need's Religious Freedom in the World Report, which was published today. The report concludes that Christians are the “most persecuted religious minority” in the world.
In his message, the Prince said: "It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East – an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years, and across which Islam spread in 700 AD, with people of different faiths living together peaceably for centuries".
He called on faith leaders "not to remain silent" and said they had a "responsibility to ensure that people within their own tradition respect people from other faith traditions".
The Prince also urged governments to uphold Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights upholding the freedom of religion.
But he said that this is often challenged, even in the West, adding: "Sadly, in many other countries, an absence of freedom to determine one's own faith is woven into the laws and customs of the nation."
Concluding his message, the Prince called on people and communities to "engage in building respect and tolerance" for without these "the very freedom on which society is built is threatened with destruction", he said.