Pope Francis prays for Yazidis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis called attention on Sunday to the plight of people affected by war and conflict in the Middle East as US-backed forces close in on Islamic State (IS) fighters in Iraq.

“So many innocent people are being sorely tested, be they Christian, or Muslim, or from minority groups like the Yazidi, who are suffering tragic violence and discrimination,” Francis said after his regular Sunday address in the Vatican.

“I encourage the different communities to follow the path of dialogue and friendship, to build a future of respect, security and peace, far from any sort of war.”

The battle for Mosul, the densely populated northern Iraqi city that IS made its de facto capital, was approaching an end on Sunday after seven months of gruelling combat.

Many Yazidis, whose beliefs combine elements of several Middle Eastern religions, were persecuted and held in Mosul by IS, which considered them devil-worshippers.

At least 9,900 members of the Yazidi community were killed or kidnapped in a matter of days during the IS siege on Mount Shingal in Iraq in August 2014, according to a recent study published in weekly journal PLOS Medicine.

(Reuters/Kom News)