Britain's Prince Charles reflected on how incredibly hard it must be for Christians to follow Jesus Christ's example and love their enemies in the face of the "heartbreaking" pain and suffering they are enduring in the Middle East.
The Prince of Wales spoke on Tuesday before the Melkite Greek Catholic community in London and representatives of other churches at the Anglican Parish of St. Barnabas in Pimlico, and in a Christmas message said it was a "particular privilege" to celebrate the birth of Christ with them.
"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," Charles said, according to The Tablet.
"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."
Charles has spoken out against the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria these past several years and has met with major church leaders who have seen firsthand the decimation caused by terror groups, such as the Islamic State.
The Prince of Wales said that he was "profoundly shocked" to learn how much the Melkite community in Syria has suffered.
"It does seem to me that in our troubled times, when so many Christians in the Middle East face such desperate trials, there is at least some potential comfort to be found in remembering our connections to the earliest days of the Church," he said.
He noted that much like the Holy Family in the Christmas story, Christians are being forced to abandon their homes and flee for their lives due to their faith.
He pointed out that the "barbaric persecution" of believers is "even more perverse and dreadful," given that the Quran, the Islamic holy book, holds a spirit of reverence toward Jesus and His mother, Mary.
"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," Charles stated.
"As we remember those Christians today, it is especially appropriate that we should gather to do so in this Church of England parish which has welcomed, in the most marvelous way, another Christian community to worship alongside it and to share this beautiful church. It offers us all, if I may say so, a very special example of Christian love and humanity."
More than 700,000 of Syria's two million Christian population have been forced to flee their homes since the start of the country's civil war in 2011.
One of the most dramatic drops was reported in Aleppo, where as of spring 2017 only 35,000 of 150,000 Christians remained, representing a 75 percent decline.
In a similar speech last year on Christian persecution, Charles likened the genocide of believers and minorities to the horrors of the Holocaust.
"I was born in 1948, just after the end of World War II in which my parents' generation had fought, and died, in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and an inhuman attempt to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe," he said at the time.
"That, nearly 70 years later, we should still be seeing such evil persecution is, to me, beyond all belief. We owe it to those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past."