LONDON – Britain's Prince Charles says he fears there will be "very, very few" Christians left in the Middle East after the turmoil wracking the region.
The heir to the British throne, who is on a trip to the region, told the BBC that the plight of Christians persecuted by Islamic extremists was "a most agonizing situation," though it was important to remember they were just one persecuted minority among many around the world.
"But at the same time I fear that the problems in the Middle East are not going to go away immediately," the prince said in a pre-recorded interview with "The Sunday Hour" radio program. "And so there is a danger that there is going to be very, very few left."
He appealed for more work to build bridges between religions.
If he succeeds his mother Queen Elizabeth II as monarch, Charles will become temporal head of the Church of England and take the title "Defender of the Faith." He said that although the title refers to the Anglican faith, he believed the role involved protecting others' freedom to worship.
"It always seems to me that while at the same time being Defender of the Faith you can also be protector of faiths," he said.
On Saturday the 66-year-old prince began a six-day trip to Jordan and the Gulf states.
He met Iraqi Christian refugees in Amman and will spend time with Jordan's King Abdullah II, days after Islamic State militants released a video showing a captured Jordanian fighter pilot being burned alive.
Hundreds of people from Britain have joined militants in Syria. Charles said the number of young Britons turning to extremism was alarming — although "some aspect of this radicalization is a search for adventure and excitement at a particular age."
He said "The frightening part" was how many people became radicalized through "the extraordinary amount of crazy stuff" on the Internet.