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Pope Francis to World: Don’t ‘Turn a Blind Eye’ to Persecuted Christians

( [email protected] ) Apr 08, 2015 08:14 PM EDT

Pope Francis
Pope Francis, left, and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Patriarchal Church of St. George during a holy liturgy in Istanbul, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014. (AP)

Pope Francis urged world leaders from his address on Monday to not "turn a blind eye" to persecuted Christians. He made the remarks from St. Peter's Square in the Vatican.

According to Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post, the pope contended that more Christians have become "martyrs" in recent years than in the early centuries of the faith. He expressed his remarks within a sobering, somber tone.

"Our brothers and sisters ... are persecuted, exiled, slain, beheaded, solely for being Christian," Francis said.

The pope hoped that the international community would take a stand against the persecution of Christians.

"I hope that the international community doesn't stand mute and inert before such unacceptable crimes, which constitute a worrisome erosion of the most elementary human rights," Francis said. "I truly hope that the international community doesn't look the other way."

According to Kaplan, the pope focused on the theme of Christian persecution throughout the Easter weekend. He noted that the persecution, particularly in Iraq and Syria, was an "immense humanitarian tragedy."

"At a Good Friday procession, he decried the world's 'complicit silence' while members of his faith are killed," Kaplan wrote. "On Sunday, he devoted his Easter address to a grim accounting of global conflicts where Christians and others have been killed."

According to Thomas D. Williams of Breitbart, the pope's comments were a "thinly veiled criticism" of the international response against ISIS, which has carried out brutal attacks on Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. The Vatican has previously condemned such attacks by ISIS as "unspeakable crimes" and "repulsive and damnable" atrocities.

"The Pope's language has been intensifying in recent weeks and he has not hesitated to point out what he sees as culpable inaction vis-à-vis the Islamist threat," Williams wrote.

However, Williams reported that the secretary of the Italian bishops conference insisted that the pope was not calling for a "holy war," but merely just "calling a spade a spade."

David Curry, president of the nonprofit organization Open Doors USA, contended to Kaplan that the world may have "looked the other way" when it comes to persecuting Christians.

"We see a continued pattern in many of these regions of violence and persecution against Christians," he said in a phone interview. "But the West and Western governments, including the U.S., when they conflict-map these issues, they refuse to address the fact that Christians are being targeted."

According to research conducted by Open Doors, 4,344 Christians were killed for "faith-related reasons" in 2014, more than twice the number killed during the same period last year. Curry told Kaplan that the numbers are considered a "low estimate."

"At some point we so have to say that [religion] is part of this conflict," Curry said.

Cameron Hudson, director of the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial, told Kaplan that persecution directed at Christians in the Middle East "fits the definition of ethnic cleansing."

"I don't know that there is a worldwide growing animosity toward Christians in particular," Hudson said. "But if you look at where the attacks are happening, these are places where religious minorities are being targeted, and as it happens, Christians are among those minorities."

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