Pope renews 'urgent appeal to the international community to end Iraq tragedy'

Pope Francis has called on the leader of the United Nations (UN) to respond to the “heartfelt cries of despair” of Iraq’s persecuted minorites.

In a letter to UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon, Pope Francis said: “I write to you, Mr Secretary-General, and place before you the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq.”

He continued: “In renewing my urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, I encourage all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter.

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“The violent attacks that are sweeping across northern Iraq cannot but awaken the consciences of all men and women of goodwill to concrete acts of solidarity by protecting those affected or threatened by violence and assuring the necessary and urgent assistance for the many displaced people as well as their safe return to their cities and their homes.

“The tragic experiences of the 20th Century, and the most basic understanding of human dignity, compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.

Pope Francis’s letter comes after Mr Ban urged the international community to do more to help presecuted Iraqis.

Meanwhile, in a letter to foreign secretary Philip Hammond, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster praised the recent airdrops of humanitarian aid by RAF planes to refugees in the Sinjar mountains, but urged that the “relief operation” and “crucial diplomatic efforts” be increased.

The Cardinal wrote: “There needs to be a sustained focus on creating a more stable society based on respect for fundamental human rights, especially freedom of religion, and the rule of law. Britain has a role to play in that and I ask that you increase the existing efforts made by the Foreign Office to promote a culture in which the dignity of the person is paramount.”

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