Benedict XVI Appeals for Peace in Kyrgyzstan

Invites Ethnic Groups to Renounce Violence

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 20, 2010 ( Benedict XVI is appealing for the restoration of peace in Kyrgyzstan following violent clashes between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic groups this past week that left 189 dead.

The Pope stated this today in a public address before praying the midday Angelus with the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“I would like to make an urgent appeal that peace and security soon be reestablished in southern Kyrgyzstan after the grave clashes that have taken place in recent days,” the Pontiff said.

Ethnic clashes broke out June 11 in the two southern cities of Osh and Jalalabad, and riots continued all week leaving at least 189 dead and more than 300,000 displaced either within the country, or in neighboring Uzbekistan.

Those remaining in the cities have no access to electricity and gas, and the food and water supplies are running low.

The Holy Father stated: “To the families of the victims and those who suffer because of this tragedy I express my heartfelt nearness and assurance of my prayers.

“I invite, furthermore, all the ethnic groups of the country to renounce all violence or provocation and I ask the international community to see that humanitarian aid may quickly reach the stricken populations.”

The population of Kyrgyzstan is 5.5 million, of which 75% are Muslim and 20% are Russian Orthodox. Several small Christian communities exist in the country, among them the Catholic Church.

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