Britain's Prince Charles has shared how heartbroken he was over the extreme persecution of Christians in the Middle East and he has asked believers in the U.K. not to take their religious freedom for granted.
On Tuesday, the Prince of Wales delivered a Christmas message to the Melkite Greek Catholic Community and representatives of other churches at the Anglican Parish of St. Barnabas in Pimlico, London, saying it was a "particular privilege" to be able to celebrate the birth of Christ with them.
He issued a stark warning about Christians who were facing attacks in the Middle East and called on Western Christians to pray and support the persecuted believers.
"It is heart-breaking beyond words to see just how much pain and suffering is being endured by Christians in this day, simply because of their faith," he said, according to Premier.
"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 continued.
The prince said that he was "profoundly shocked" at the oppression suffered by the Melkite community in Syria, adding that the mistreatment of believers "is even more perverse and dreadful," given that Jesus and His mother, Mary are both revered in the Quran.
He urged Christians in the U.K. not to take their religious freedoms for granted and support other believers who are being denied those rights.
The prince also called on those attending the event to "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."
Before the war in Syria, there were two million Christians in the country, but over 700,000 have left since the start of the conflict in 2011.
According to The Tablet, the Melkite Greek Catholic Church in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, led by Archbishop Issam John Darwish, has been providing food, shelter, clothes, medicine and other essentials to more than 6,000 refugees who had fled Syria.
Darwish, the Melkite Archbishop of Zahle, Furzol and Bekka, had traveled to London to attend the service at St. Barnabas on Tuesday and he briefly addressed the congregation on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. The service was reportedly conducted in the Melkite liturgical tradition and included hymns by the choir of St. Barnabas School.
The Melkite Greek Catholic Church is in full communion with the Holy See as part of the worldwide Catholic Church and is the largest Catholic community in Syria and Palestine, and the second largest in Lebanon. The congregation is composed mainly of Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians, Jordanians and Egyptians.