After visiting ethnic and religious minorities displaced by fighting in Iraq, the Pope’s special envoy has returned to the Vatican armed with emotional witness accounts from those he met.
In the Kurdish capital Arbil Cardinal Fernando Filoni saw for himself some of the thousands of Christian refugees fleeing from Islamic militants.
But it was the plight of the Yazidis which touched him the most.
“They are really poor people, right now probably the poorest. Because whilst the Christians, even if they stuck to their faith and quit their homes, even if they refused to pay the ‘gidza’ tax imposed by the extremists and didn’t want to convert to Islam and preferred to flee, at least they were not threatened with being killed,” he said.
Filoni was near to tears as he described Yazidi women who had disappeared and may be amongst a number of people believed to have been raped or sold.
Some had been driven to suicide, he was told, adding that one girl who did manage to send a message home was so ashamed that she said: ‘If one day, my father should see me
again, I’d rather be killed.”
The cardinal’s visit will have provided the Pope with direct accounts of those suffering in Iraq.
Earlier this week Pope Francis said it was legitimate for the world to stop Islamist aggression.