Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
A man from the Yezidi minority and young people pray at a shrine being rebuilt after it was destroyed in 2017 by Islamic State militants in Bashiqa, Iraq. (CNS photo/Khalid al Mousily, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- All people have a right to freely profess their own religious beliefs without fear of duress, Pope Francis said, calling on the world community to do more to protect the Yezidi minority.

"It is unacceptable that human beings are persecuted and killed because of their religion," he told a group of Yezidis during a private audience at the Vatican Jan. 24. 

The Yezidis are a monotheistic religious minority, indigenous to areas in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. They have been especially persecuted by Islamic State militants who have forced them, along with Christians, to convert or be killed.

He told the representatives, who were now living in Germany, that his encounter with them was also a sign of his solidarity and concern for all Yezidis, particularly those in Iraq and Syria.

His thoughts and prayers went to all "innocent victims of senseless and inhuman barbarity," underlining that all people have the right "to freely and without duress profess and their own religious belief."

The Yezidis are a monotheistic religious minority, indigenous to areas in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. They have been especially persecuted by Islamic State militants.

The pope said the Yezidis' rich spiritual and cultural history has been scarred by the "indescribable violations of fundamental human rights: kidnappings, slavery, torture, forced conversions and killings."

"Your sanctuaries and places of prayer have been destroyed," he said, and those lucky enough to have been able to flee have had to leave behind so much, including that which they held to be most holy and dear.

Aware of this tragedy, "the international community cannot remain a mute and inert spectator."

He encouraged organizations and "people of goodwill" to help rebuild homes and places of worship that have been destroyed and to seek out concrete ways to create the right conditions for people to return to their homelands. 

He also said he hoped everything possible would be done to help save those who were still in the hands of terrorists, locate those still missing and identify and properly bury those who have been murdered.

All over the world, he said, there are religious and ethnic minorities -- including Christians -- who are persecuted because of their faith.

"The Holy See will never tire of intervening by denouncing these situations, calling for the recognition, protection and respect" of minorities as well as calling for dialogue and reconciliation, he said.

"Once more I speak out in favor of the rights of the Yezidis, above all their right to exist as a religious community. No one can allocate oneself the power to eliminate a religious group because it is not among those (who are) 'tolerated,'" he said.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

The latest from america

How does the Catholic Church decide what’s a miracle and what is just a rare healing—or a hoax?
JesuiticalJanuary 21, 2022
While the church’s prayer should not be a battlefield, Archbishop Roche says it is understandable that people are passionate about it.
It is appalling to see an organization that claims to be Catholic project pro-abortion messaging onto a structure that celebrates the conception of the Mother of God. What am I supposed to take from this?
J.D. Long-GarcíaJanuary 21, 2022
With tens of thousands of anti-abortion protesters gathered for the annual March for Life, Catholics for Choice projected pro-abortion messages on the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 21, 2022