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Pope Francis decries persecution of Christians

By Sarah Mac Donald - 08 August, 2015

Pope Francis preaching at Santa MartaPope Francis has described the persecution of Christians in the Middle East as “atrocious, inhumane, and inexplicable”.

In a letter to Archbishop Maroun Elias Lahham, Auxiliary of Jerusalem and Patriarchal Vicar for Jordan, where many Iraqi refugees fled from Islamic State’s depredations on the Niniveh Plain last August, the Pontiff said Christians were the victims of “intolerance and fanaticism” in the face of the “silence” of the international community.

“They are the martyrs of today, humiliated and discriminated against because of their fidelity to the Gospel,” Pope Francis wrote, as he called for daily prayers for the refugees and gratitude for their witness.

The Pope also thanked communities that did not “look the other way” but instead assisted the refugees.

“Many times have I wanted to give voice to the unspeakable, inhuman and inexplicable persecution of those who in many parts of the world — especially among Christians — are victims of fanaticism and intolerance, often under the eyes and in the silence of everyone”, the Pope said.

Elsewhere in his letter, the Pope expressed the hope that global public opinion “be ever more attentive, sensitive and engaged regarding the persecution directed against Christians and, more generally, against religious minorities”.

“I renew the hope that the international community not remain silent and inert in front of these intolerable crimes, which constitute an alarming decline of the most essential human rights and impede the richness of cohabitation among peoples, cultures and faiths,” he stated.

Separately, some Catholic prelates from Iraq and Syria have charged that US immigration officials are discriminating against Christian refugees from the Middle East.

Speaking in Philadelphia to the national convention of the Knights of Columbus (KofC), Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil in Iraq, and Archbishop Jean-Clement Jeanbart of Aleppo reported that only a tiny number of Christian refugees have been approved for visas to come to the US.

However, Muslim refugees have been approved at a significantly higher rate.

“Our people are asking these questions: How come we apply for the American visa and are denied,” Archbishop Warda said.

The archbishops agreed that they would prefer for their people to remain in Syria and Iraq, if possible. But when they do apply for help to live abroad, Americans should treat them fairly, the prelates said.

Archbishop Warda appealed to the Knights, “Please speak for the persecuted around the world, especially for the Christians today.”

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