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Prince Charles warns against religious persecution

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Media captionA special Christmas Thought for the Day has been recorded by the Prince of Wales for Radio 4's Today

Prince Charles has spoken out about the danger of religious persecution, warning against a repeat of "the horrors of the past".

Delivering BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, the Prince of Wales said the rise of populist groups "aggressive" to minority faiths had "deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days" of the 1930s.

In the Christmas message, he urged respect for those of different faiths.

He said religious freedom was a "choice between life and death" for some.

It is the third time he has given the address on the Today programme.

The prince said he had recently met a Jesuit priest from Syria who described the plight of Christians he was forced to leave behind in the country.

He said: "He told me of mass kidnappings in parts of Syria and Iraq and how he feared that Christians will be driven en masse out of lands described in the Bible.

"He thought it quite possible there will be no Christians in Iraq within five years.

"Clearly, for such people, religious freedom is a daily, stark choice between life and death."

'Beyond all belief'

The prince said the scale of religious persecution around the world was "not widely appreciated" and was not limited to Christians, but included many other minority faiths.

He told listeners he was was born just after the end of World War Two in which his parents' generation had fought against an attempt to "exterminate the Jewish population of Europe."

He went on: "That, nearly seventy 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."

Prince Charles urged people to remember the story of the Nativity this Christmas, which was about "the fleeing of the Holy Family to escape violent persecution".

He asked listeners to remember that the Prophet Mohammed migrated from Mecca to Medina because he was "seeking the freedom for himself and his followers to worship".

The Prince said: "Whichever religious path we follow, the destination is the same - to value and respect the other person, accepting their right to live out their peaceful response to the love of God."

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