He tells religious leaders that urgent action is needed to save the faith in Iraq and elsewhere

Prince Charles has warned that Christianity in the Middle East is “under threat like never before”.

In a visit to Archbishop’s House, Westminster, yesterday, to meet with Syrian and Iraqi Christians and representatives of those suffering persecution in the Middle East, the Prince of Wales said that “Christian communities in the Middle East are being targeted like never before by fanatical Islamist militants intent on dividing communities that had lived together for centuries.

“The impact of all this unmentionable violence and cruelty has had on individual lives is heart breaking,” he said: “Earlier this year I spent time with three remarkable people who had been subject to unimaginable levels of barbaric horror, including a Jesuit priest who had been working in Homs in Syria and a Chaldean Catholic priest from northern Iraq who had been kidnapped by Daesh, threatened daily with beheading but never renounced with faith, but had not renounced his faith nor lost his power of forgiveness. Their heart-rending testimonies are a powerful reminder, if indeed such a reminder is needed, of the terrifying depths to which people will sink, in the name of so-called faith.”

The prince pointed out that that Christians were not the only ones to suffer, and that many of Daesh’s victims were Muslims, and there was also the suffering of the Yezidi, but there was still an urgent need for the world to help the Christians who were threatened with destruction: “Despite what brainwashed militants would have you believe, Christianity is not a foreign religions. As the atmospheric chapels of Damascus and countless others testify, it has been part of the life of the Middle East for countless centuries.”

He warned that, “According to Aid to the Church in Need, which is a truly remarkable organisation, Christianity is due to disappear from Iraq in 5 years unless emergency help at an international scale. This affects us all.”

Prince Charles has taken a keen interest in the plight of Middle Eastern Christians. Last September he gave a donation to Aid to the Church in Need’s campaign to help the Iraqi and Syrian faithful. He wrote a letter to Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, saying he was “heartbroken” by events in Iraq. Again, it was the Prince who approached the charity indirectly through mutual acquaintances. John Pontifex, ACN’s head of press, says the Prince “feels passionately about the decline of Christianity in the Middle East” and that “it means a great deal to him”.

Last December the Prince recorded a video address for the launch of ACN’s Religious Freedom in the World 2014 report.