When Mahershala Ali landed the award for Best Supporting Actor at the SAG Awards for his role in 'Moonlight' yesterday, he was sure to make his moment count. In a moving speech, he spoke about persecution, and the importance of putting aside our differences as human beings.

Mahershala AliMahershala Ali opens up about his Islamic faith at the SAG Awards

Through obvious nerves, the star found a strength inside himself that only proved why he managed to take home the award for a film that explores the turbulent coming-of-age story of a boy living in a bad Miami neighbourhood. Ali's role as crack dealer Juan was to protect the young protagonist.

'I think what I've learned from working on 'Moonlight' is we see what happens when you persecute people', Ali explained in his speech. 'They fold into themselves and what I was so grateful about in having the opportunity to play Juan was playing a gentleman who saw a young man folding into himself as a result of the persecution of his community and taking that opportunity to uplift him and tell him that he mattered. That he was okay. And accept him. And I hope that we do a better job with that.'

Fighting back tears, he continued, and opened up about his relationship with his Christian mother since he converted to Islam at the age of 25. He admitted that while she struggled to accept this new life path that he had chosen, they were able to build up their relationship to something even better than it was before.

More: Read our review of 'Moonlight'

'My mother is an ordained minister. I'm a Muslim', he said. 'She didn't do backflips when I called her to tell her I converted 17 years ago, but I tell you now, you put things to the side, I'm able to see her, she's able to see me. We love each other. The love has grown and that stuff is minutiae, it's not that important.

'When we get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us all different, I think there's two ways of seeing that: there's an opportunity to see the texture of that person, the characteristics that make them unique, and then there's an opportunity to go to war about it and say that that person's different from me, I don't like you, so let's battle.'