(AFP) Pope Francis on Thursday said the Catholic Church will not accept a Middle East without Christians, who often find themselves forced to flee areas of conflict and unrest in the region.

“We will not resign ourselves to imagining a Middle East without Christians,” he said after meeting with patriarchs from Syria, Iran and Iraq, before calling for “the universal right to lead a dignified life and freely practise one’s own faith to be respected.”

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The political upheaval that has swept the Arab world over the past three years has led to a rise of radical Islam, leaving minority Christians feeling threatened and sometimes forcing them to emigrate.

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