News / Europe

Pope Calls for Renewed Political Will to End Syrian Conflict

Pope Francis (L) makes his “State of the World” address during an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican, Jan. 13, 2014.
Pope Francis (L) makes his “State of the World” address during an audience with the diplomatic corps at the Vatican, Jan. 13, 2014.
Reuters
Pope Francis on Monday called for renewed political will to end the conflict in Syria and lamented a “general indifference” to the plight of refugees around the world.

In his first “State of the World” address to diplomats from 180 countries accredited to the Vatican, Francis also spoke of his concern over violence in Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and parts of Africa.

“What is presently needed is a renewed political will to end the conflict,” the pope said of the civil war in Syria, which has killed more than 100,000 people, forced more than 2 million to flee abroad and displaced another 4 million inside the country.

“At the same time, full respect for humanitarian law remains essential. It is unacceptable that unarmed civilians, especially children, become targets,” he said.

In his yearly address, the head of the 1.2-billion-member Roman Catholic Church said he hoped the Geneva 2 conference due on Jan. 22 under U.N. auspices “will mark the beginning of the desired peace process.”

He lamented that many people in the Middle East and Africa were living as “refugees in camps where they are no longer seen as persons but as nameless statistics”.

Focus on refugees

The world had forgotten those who risked their lives in rickety boats to seek a better life in Europe, he said.

In October, 366 Eritreans drowned in a shipwreck near the  Italian island of Lampedusa. Sea arrivals to Italy from north Africa more than tripled in 2013, fueled by Syria's civil war and strife in the Horn of Africa.

“Sadly, there is a general indifference in the face of these tragedies, which is a dramatic sign of the loss of that sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters on which every civil society is based,” he said.

The pope also spoke of his concern that conflicts in the Middle East and north Africa were fueling “an exodus of Christians” fleeing because of fears for their safety.

Christians now comprise 5 percent of the population of the Middle East, down from 20 percent a century ago. According to some estimates, the current population of 12 million Christians in the Middle East could halve by 2020.

Francis made another appeal for respect for the environment. Quoting a popular saying in his native Argentina, he said, "God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature - creation - is mistreated, she never forgives.”

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death With IS

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs