LEICESTER, United Kingdom – Prince Charles has highlighted the plight of persecuted Christians in his Easter message, telling them, “they are not forgotten.”

“I admire and greatly respect all those of you who find it in your hearts to pray for those who persecute you, and following the example of Christ, seek forgiveness for your enemies,” he said in the 4-minute video.

The message, recorded on March 15, was released on Good Friday.

Charles has been a longtime advocate for persecuted Christians.

At an interfaith gathering last December, the prince said, “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.”

He has recently met with church leaders from the Middle East, including Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, in Iraq, and Melkite Archbishop John Darwish of Zahlé and Furzol, in Lebanon.

These encounters were facilitated by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“Over the years, I have met many who have had to flee for their faith and for their life – or have somehow endured the terrifying consequences of remaining in their country – and I have been so deeply moved, and humbled, by their truly remarkable courage and by their selfless capacity for forgiveness, despite all that they have suffered,” the prince said.

Warda has been overseeing the care of more than 100,000 Christians driven out of their homes on Iraq’s Nineveh Plains, many of whom have begun to return home after Iraqi troops drove out the forces of the Islamic State.

Charles alluded to this in his video message.

“I have also heard that in the darkness there are small shafts of light, signs of resurrection and of hope that slowly but surely Christians who have had to flee from their homelands are beginning to return and to rebuild their shattered homes,” he said.

According to the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee, 37,031 Christians have returned to the area over the last 12 months – but nearly quadruple that number are still in the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, where they fled after the Islamic State took over the area in 2014.

The prince, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and first in line to the British throne, noted that biblical lands, such as Syria and modern Iraq, were not always a place of strife between people of different faiths, and that the three Abrahamic faiths have lived side by side in relative peace for centuries, “as friends and neighbors.”

“For example, I have heard how in Lebanon Muslims join with Christians at the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon to honor her together. I know two senior muftis who believe in the essential importance of the Christian faith to maintaining the balance of the Middle East,” he said.

“All three Abrahamic faiths have known, and continue to know, the bitterness of persecution. When religion has fallen into the barbaric grip of those who distort and misrepresent faith,” Charles continued.

“So, this Easter I want to salute the fortitude of all those who, whatever their faith, are persecuted for remaining faithful to the true essence of their beliefs.”