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Muslim leaders must condemn IS, says Vatican

Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee their homes by the group Islamic State, IS, after it started taking over parts of the country.

The Pope has sent Cardinal Fernando Filoni from Rome to Iraq to be near Christians in the war torn country.

Yesterday the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said: "The dramatic situation of the Christians, the Yazidis, and other minority religious and ethnic communities in Iraq demands that religious leaders, and above all Muslim religious leaders, people engaged in inter-religious dialogue and all people of good will take a clear and courageous stance.


"All must be unanimous in their unambiguous condemnation of these crimes and denounce the invoking of religion to justify them.

"Otherwise, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders, have? What credibility could the inter-religious dialogue [which has been] patiently pursued in recent years have?"

It was an unusually strong statement from the Holy See which even hinted at breaking off inter faith talks with Muslim leaders if they fail to denounce IS's "unspeakable criminal acts".

Yesterday the Vatican's representative at UN headquarters in Geneva said military action in Iraq is needed to protect thousands of Christians.

Archbishop Silvani Tomasi said the international community must do more for religious minorities being persecuted in Iraq.

He told Vatican Radio: "At this moment, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, and other members of the Christian community, including the World Council of Churches, are taking a strong stand in defence [of the Iraqi Christians] and their right to survive and to live in peace in their own home, which for the last 2,000 years has seen them active and contributing to the development of the region.

"However, we are faced with a certain indifference at the practical level with the international community. It is difficult to convince—because of false modesty, I would say—the Western powers to take a strong stance in defence of the Christians.

"At this moment, we hope the voice that is surging from different Christian and religious communities, from moderate Muslims, from people of good will around the world, may find the response of concrete humanitarian assistance that is provided for the Christians in northern Iraq as well as some political and even effective military protection."

Meanwhile in today's developments the UK has air dropped a third round of relief supplies, including water and shelter kits, while the US carried out a sixth delivery of food and water to civilians trapped on Mount Sinjar overnight.

Some Iraqis have managed to escape to camps in the Syrian Kurdish town of Malikiya, 20 miles from the border.

There's a special Pray For Iraq programme on Premier Christian Radio at 12.30 today.

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