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Tuesday 11 May |
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In Turkey, Pope Francis Voices Concern Over “Grave Persecution” of Minorities in Iraq and Syria

AP

Vatican Radio - published on 11/28/14

How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace?  We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better!  With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace!  Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development.

Mr. President, interreligious and intercultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion. 

Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers.  This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment.  The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can “reverse the trend” and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice.

Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts.  In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating.  Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws.  Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially – though not only – Christians and Yazidis.  Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs. 

Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees.  In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies.  In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.

What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the fight for sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalization of which there is no shortage in the world today.

Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilizations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress.

                May the Most High bless and protect Turkey, and help the nation to be a strong and fervent peacemaker!  Thank you!

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Pope FrancisTurkey
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