Pope Francis. Credit: Casa Rosada via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis. Credit: Casa Rosada via Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) In a message to Iraqi Christians over the weekend, Pope Francis expressed solidarity with Christians who are being driven out of the Middle East by Islamic extremists.

“It would seem that there they (Muslim extremists) do not want there to be any Christians, but you bear witness to Christ,” Francis said in a video message shown by French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin during a visit to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.

“I think of the wounds, of the pain of women with their children, the elderly and the displaced, the wounds of those who are victims of every type of violence,” Francis said, the Vatican News Service reported.

In particular, Francis said that Iraqi Christians and Yazidis are suffering “inhuman violence” due to their religious and ethnic identities.

“Christians and Yazidis have been forced out of their homes, they have had to abandon everything to save their lives, but they have not denied their faith,” he said.

The pontiff’s statements come on the heels of his three-day visit to Turkey, where he urged Muslim leaders, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to “clearly” condemn Islamic terrorism.

“It would be wonderful if all the Muslim leaders of the world–political, religious, and academic, spoke up clearly and condemned violence which damages Islam,” Francis told Erdogan.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians and Yazidis have fled their homes in northern Iraq following the onslaught of the Islamic State terror group last summer. Many of them have fled to Iraqi Kurdistan, where they have received protection from the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

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