Pope: Calls for protection of Christians in Middle East

2014-10-20 19:27
Pope Francis.(Jack Guez, Pool)

Pope Francis.(Jack Guez, Pool)

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Vatican City - Appealing for the protection of Christians in the Middle East, Pope Francis said it was "unimaginable" that they could be driven out of the region after 2 000 years.

"We cannot be resigned to imagining a Middle East without Christians", Francis said on Monday at a special meeting of cardinals, known as the consistory.

While the number of Christians has been dwindling throughout the Middle East, recently there has been an exodus of the minority community from Iraq and Syria following the steady advance of ISIS.

"The latest developments, especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying", Francis said. "We are looking at a terrorist phenomenon of previously unimaginable dimensions."

He described it as an "unjust situation" that requires not only constant prayers, but also an adequate response from the international community.

Earlier this month, an Iraqi Christian politician spoke at the Italian parliament in Rome of the fate of non-Muslim minorities in Iraq.

"Yezidis have faced genocide, while Christians have faced ethnic cleansing", Hadaya Anwar, a member of the provincial council of Niniveh, in northern Iraq, told a press conference.

Anwar said that 120 000-130 000 Iraqi Christians have fled to Kurdish areas not controlled by the Islamic State since early August. In addition, some 30 000 have left the country, he said.

"Us Christians in Iraq have always been the victims of attacks, it's not news, it has been happening for 1 400 years", Anwar said. "But today we are the target of the most ferocious aggression that we have seen in the history of Mesopotamia."

When asked in August whether he approved of the US airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, the pope said: "In these cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say this: It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor.

"I underline the verb: Stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means. With what means can they be stopped? These have to be evaluated."

Francis is expected to return to the issue of Christian minorities in the Middle East when he visits Turkey in late November.

Read more on:    isis  |  pope francis  |  vatican city  |  middle east peace  |  religion

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