Pope Francis turned his attention to the dramatic phenomenon of the systematic persecution of Christians, and encouraged people to pray for their brothers and sisters who are suffering from increasing prejudice all over the world.
In a video message outlining his prayer intentions for the month of March, he implored the faithful to speak out against "religio-ethnic cleansing." Christians are suffering from around the globe. "They are persecuted and killed because they are Christians," CNA quoted the pope.
The video shows people of different nationalities who were depicted to be arrested and lined up for a mug shot while holding up signs that read "Protestant," "Catholic" and "Orthodox." Pope Francis said: "Those who persecute them make no distinction between the religious communities to which they belong."
The video went on to show real footage of bombed churches in the Middle East followed by clips of victims of horrific persecutions. "I ask you: How many of you pray for persecuted Christians? Do it with me, that they may be supported by the prayers and material help of all the Churches and communities," he said.
The video was released on March 2 as 150 Christian families fled the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt to escape the attacks of Islamic militants. "How many people are being persecuted because of their faith, forced to abandon their homes, their places of worship, their lands, their loved ones!" Pope Francis commented.
The Turin-based Center for Studies on New Religions (CENSUR) reported that Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide, with 90,000 of them killed last year alone on the basis of their beliefs. CENSUR director Dr. Massimo Introvigne told Breitbart News that "Islamic ultra-fundamentalism" has overtaken communism "as the number one agent of persecution."