Pope says rejecting migrants an 'act of war'

Francis tells youth 'can't retire at 20', courage needed

07 August, 19:04

    Pope Francis blesses faithfull during his visit in Lampedusa Island, south Italy, 08 July 2013. Pope Francis blesses faithfull during his visit in Lampedusa Island, south Italy, 08 July 2013.

    (By Sandra Cordon).

    - Vatican City - The rejection of migrants fleeing violence and hunger is an act of war, Pope Francis told youth Friday.

    Francis told members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement that when migrants are forced to flee from country to country, with no one giving them shelter, "this is an unresolved conflict, and this is war, this is violence, it's called murder". The pope urged members of the youth movement to remember the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh, calling them "our brothers".

    In recent weeks, Rohingya migrants - most of whom are Muslim - have been refused sanctuary in Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

    The pope said it was a crime that the Rohingja "have been driven from one country to another and another"." "In this world there are so many wars," said Francis. "We are in a war, I repeatedly say that this is a third world war...

    "But we are at war. And this is negative. But there are signs of hope and there are signs of joy".

    Francis has frequently spoken out about the importance of welcoming and assisting migrants, which have been flooding into Europe to escape wars in the Middle East and Africa.

    One of the pope's first trips after he was elected in March 2013 was to visit the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, the first European shore reached by countless migrants.

    "The world has so many bad things, we are at war," concluded Francis.

    "But there are also many beautiful things and so many good things and many saints hidden in the people of God. God is present".

    As the pope spoke, two operations coordinated by the Italian coast guard off the coast of Libya rescued some 240 people.

    But only days earlier, while some 400 migrants were rescued another 200 were presumed dead after a boat overturned. The bodies of 26 children were recovered.

    The pope also urged the young people to have courage in facing tensions and conflicts that he said are part of life, and reminded them that they "cannot retire at 20".

    Northern League Leader Matteo Salvini on Friday challenged Francis's call to care for migrants.

    In a Facebook post, Salvini, whose party is opposed to undocumented migrants, disagreed with the pope's words.

    "Rejecting illegal immigrants is crime?," wrote Salvini on the social media website.

    "No, it's a duty. Am I wrong?" added Salvini.

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