The Prince said religious freedom could be a matter of life and death

Prince Charles has said that the scale of anti-Christian persecution is “not widely appreciated”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, the Prince of Wales recalled meeting a Jesuit priest from Syria who gave him “a graphic account of what life is like for those Christians he was forced to leave behind”.

Persecution, especially by ISIS, has led many Middle East Christians to flee their homes. Iraq’s Christian population has decreased from 1.4 million to 250,000.

Last week, Barack Obama signed the International Religious Freedom Act, which will make combatting persecution a bigger part of US foreign policy.

The Prince said religious freedom was an urgent problem around the world. “Clearly for such people religious freedom is a daily stark choice between life and death. The scale of religious persecution around the world is not widely appreciated, nor is it limited to Christians in the troubled regions of the Middle East.

“A recent report suggests that attacks are increasing on Yazidis, Jews, Ahmadis, Baha’is and many other minority faiths, and in some countries even more insidious forms of religious extremism have recently surfaced which aim to eliminate all types of religious diversity.”

He added that widespread violence and intolerance had “echoes of the dark days of the 1930s”.

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

Elsewhere in the talk, he said that both “the Holy Family” and “the Prophet Mohammed” had been forced to flee in order to escape persecution.

He added: “Whichever religious path we follow, the destination is the same: to value and respect the other person, accepting their right to live out the peaceful response to the Love of God.”

The Prince has said he plans to change the monarch’s title to “Defender of Faith” in a friendly gesture to non-Christian religions. The sovereign’s title “Defender of the Faith” was first granted to Henry VIII by the Pope, after Henry defended the teaching of the Catholic Church.