Prince Charles Islam Christianity
Prince Charles at a Syrian Orthodox Church service in west LondonReuters

Relations between Christianity and Islam have "reached a crisis" because of persecution by extreme Islamists, Prince Charles has told religious leaders.

Charles, who was addressing a variety of faith leaders at Clarence House in London after visiting religious communities in the capital, warned that bridges between the two faiths were being burnt in the Middle East.

"We cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are, increasingly, being deliberately attacked by fundamentalist Islamist militants," he said. "Christianity was born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ.

"For 20 years, I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so, and this is achieved through intimidation, false accusation and organised persecution of Christian communities in the Middle East."

The group of faith leaders at the talk included Middle Eastern Orthodox Chruch archbishops as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The heir to the throne said that he was anxious about the treatment of Christian minorities.

King Abdullah II of Jordan's personal envoy, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, said: "Since Muslims can generally live in dignity in Christian-majority countries, they must stand for the dignity of Christians in Muslim-majority countries."

Christians experienced persecution in Iraq after the 2003 war, in Syria by factions fighting against the Assad regime, in Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria.

"Everywhere else in the Middle East, Christians are wondering what the rise of these movements, and of politicised Islam in general, means for their future," Ghazi continued.

Charles is a well-known advocate of building positive relations between Islamic and Christian communities and called for "mutual respect and understanding" between the two faiths in a 2006 speech in Cairo.