In his historic trip to Turkey Friday, Pope Francis decried the “tragic” situation in the Middle East, above all in Iraq and Syria. “Everyone suffers the consequences of these conflicts, and the humanitarian situation is unbearable,” he said.
“I think of so many children,” Francis continued, “the sufferings of so many mothers, of the elderly, of those displaced and of all refugees, subject to every form of violence.”
The Pope underscored the responsibility of ISIS for this suffering, noting that “owing mainly to an extremist and fundamentalist group,” large numbers of minorities, especially Christians and Yazidis, “have suffered and continue to suffer barbaric violence simply because of their ethnic and religious identity.”
So many, the Pope said, “have been forcibly evicted from their homes, having to leave behind everything to save their lives and preserve their faith.” Francis also lamented the “damage to sacred buildings, monuments, religious symbols and cultural patrimony,” caused by the violence, “as if trying to erase every trace, every memory of the other.”
Francis called on all religious leaders to denounce these barbarities, and in a particular way, he said that “any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation.”
But along with denouncing, the Pope said, “we must also work together to find adequate solutions. This requires the cooperation of all: governments, political and religious leaders, representatives of civil society, and all men and women of goodwill.”
Earlier in the day, the Pope condemned “fanaticism and fundamentalism” and stated that “we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies.”
“The Middle East,” Francis declared, “has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence.”
It is licit, Francis said, “while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor,” but added that a military response is insufficient.
“What is required,” Francis said, “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.”
Thomas D. Williams can be followed on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome