Pope Francis has called on Muslim leaders, whether political, religious or academic, to issue a global condemnation of terrorism to help break the stereotype that Islam and violence are innately linked.
Speaking during his flight back from Turkey, where the pontiff spent three days discussing divisions between faiths and several times condemned Isis (also known as Islamic State) insurgents, said it was wrong for anyone to react to terrorism by being “enraged” against Islam.
“You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of [fundamentalists]. All religions have these little groups,” he said.
“[Muslims] say: ‘No, we are not like this, the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace’.”
Isis has this year promoted the image of Islam as a violent religion, after seizing swathes of Syria and Iraq, slaughtering or driving out Shi’ite Muslims, Christians, and others such as the Yazidi who do not share their radical brand of Sunni Islam.
But the Argentine Pope, who has been trying to foster co-operation with moderate Islam in order to work for peace and protect Christians in the Middle East, said he understood why Muslims were offended by many in the West who automatically equated their religion with terrorism.
During talks on Friday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Pope Francis said he had made the suggestion of a global condemnation of terrorism by Islamic leaders.
“I told the president that it would be beautiful if all Islamic leaders, whether they are political, religious or academic leaders, would speak out clearly and condemn this because this would help the majority of Muslim people,” he told reporters aboard the flight.
While in Istanbul, Pope Francis and the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Bartholomew, called for an end to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
They said they could not resign themselves to a “Middle East without Christians,” the BBC reported.
In an address at a Mass on Sunday, he said Islamic State were committing a "profoundly grave sin against God" and called for inter-religious dialogue and action against poverty to help end the conflicts in the region.
He added that ending poverty was crucial, partly because it gave rise to "the recruitment of terrorists". Francis has in the past said that, while it is lawful for the international community to use force to stop an "unjust aggressor", lasting solutions must be found that tackle the root causes of violence.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content