Pope Francis expressed his grief over Yemen’s “humanitarian crisis” Sunday, calling on nations to come to the assistance of the afflicted population.
“With great concern I am following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen,” the pope told the crowds gathered in Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican. “The population is exhausted by the long conflict and so many children suffer from hunger but have no access to stores of food.”
“Brothers and sisters, the cry of these children and their parents rises before God,” Francis continued. “I appeal to the interested parties and to the international community to urgently promote compliance with the agreements reached, to ensure the distribution of food and to work for the good of the population.”
“Let us pray strongly, because they are children who are hungry, thirsty, have no medicines and are in danger of death,” he said.
The pope’s impassioned statement came just prior to his departure for a historic three-day trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the first visit of a pope to the Arabian Peninsula. The UAE is a vital member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Shiite rebels allied with Iran, a conflict that has produced widespread famine and suffering in the country.
Francis arrived Sunday evening in Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, to participate in an interreligious gathering organized within the framework of the country’s “Year of Tolerance.”
Upon arriving, the pope was greeted in the airport by UAE leader Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan along with Sheik Ahmed a-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance for the UAE, said that the joint visit of Pope Francis and Ahmed Al Tayeb reflects the country’s efforts “to establish the values of tolerance around the world, which have made the UAE a model of civilised coexistence.”
“We think this Pope is working very hard to harmonise understanding between different religions,” the UAE’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Sulaiman Almazroui, told the UK-based Tablet newspaper. “He has a genuine desire to arrive at balanced thinking of acceptance of Islam minus extremism. And Christianity minus extremism.”
“The UAE has embraced tolerance for a long time, [and] by its nature it has co-existed with many different nationalities and faiths,” Ambassador Almazroui said.
The UAE is, however, an Islamic state and conversion to Christianity, considered apostasy under the law, is punishable by death.
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