Pope Francis has exhorted religious leaders to denounce all violations of human dignity and rights, and has re-launched an appeal to the international community.

In a video-message the Holy Father sent to Iraqi refugees Saturday, he called on the international community to do three things:  “to resolve the conflicts that cause blood to be shed in your lands of origin,” “to combat the other causes that lead people to leave their homelands,” and “to promote suitable conditions for them to remain or return.”

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, France, delivered the message while he was in Erbil, the capital and largest city of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, for a two-day visit.

In the message, the Holy Father reminded the refugees that during his trip to Turkey Nov 28-30, he lamented how Christians are being driven out of the Middle East. He then thanked them for the witness they give, both through their suffering and through not denying their faith.

“It would seem that there they do not want there to be any Christians, but you bear witness to Christ,” he said, adding, “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.”

That an extremist and fundamentalist group has caused entire communities, including Christians and Yazidi, "to suffer inhuman violence because of their religious and ethnic identity," he said, causes much concern.

The Holy Father decried how many had to abandon everything to survive, and how so many sacred places have been destroyed, “almost as if to cancel every trace, every memory of the other.”

“As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations of the dignity and rights of humanity,” he exhorted.

St. Therese of the Baby Jesus, he noted, said that she and the Church were like a rod: "When the wind rises and the storm comes, the rod bends but it does not break." 

"You are God's rod today!" he said. "The rods that bend under this ferocious wind, but then rise up again."

Noting the Holy Spirit will give them strength and resistance, he also reminded them Mary “is our mother and will protect you.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “Your resistance is martyrdom. It is dew that brings fruitfulness,” and asking them to pray for him.

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full Text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-video-message-to-iraqi-refugees

On the NET:

Video Message for Iraqi Christians
Official Vatican Television Network: http://t.co/ydKEgSGWHX