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Pope calls on international community to help persecuted Christians in Iraq

The Pope is asking government leaders to help persecuted Christians in Iraq. Rising violence has forced an estimated 200,000 people to flee their homes as Islamic extremists take over northern cities.  Through a letter, the Pope called for an end to the bloodshed, highlighting the same call he made during a recent Angelus.  POPE FRANCIS (July 20th)  "Today our brothers are persecuted. They are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!â? Most recently, the Vatican's State Department sent a message to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, calling for their governments to take the rising violence seriously. It calls for the international community to offer their help.  On behalf of the Pope, the Vatican's spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi, read part of the Pope's call for action.  FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI Vatican Spokesperson  "I ask that programs be in place to protect those who are affected or threatened by the violence. May the displaced find the necessary and urgent support they need.â?  Sunni extremists took over the ancient Christian town of Qaraqosh, which housed thousands of displaced Christians from Mosul. Many of them were forced to leave their hometown when extremists gave them a list of ultimatums: Convert to Islam, die or pay a tax for being Christian.  In the letter, the Pope also highlighted that violence is not overcome with violence.  POPE FRANCIS (July 20th) "Violence is overcome with peace! Let us pray in silence, asking for peace: all of us, in silence...â? The Pope also called on local bishops to organize gatherings to pray for peace in the region. KLH  MG FA -BN Up: PM