Pope Francis has appealed for the end of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, saying the “cries of these children and their parents rise up” to God.
He made the appeal at the Vatican an hour before his scheduled departure on a three-day trip to the United Arab Emirates, which is a key member of the Saudi-led coalition at war with Yemen’s Iran-aligned rebels. The conflict has driven Yemen to the brink of famine and caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Francis urged faithful in St. Peter’s Square to join him in prayer, saying “these are hungry children” with no medicine, and “are in danger of dying.” Noting that many can’t reach food aid areas, he appealed to the involved parties and the international community to urgently ensure that agreements are reached and food distributed.
Francis is expected in the United Arab Emirates later Sunday, where he will become the first pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula.
The Emirates' support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, which has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and the UAE's problematic record on human rights has long plagued the UAE internationally.
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The Pope is no stranger to the middle east or its politics. In May 2018, the pope lamented the the killing of Palestinians near the Gaza border by the IDF, expressing sympathy with the victims and preaching that "the use of violence never leads to peace."
In 2017, the Pope called for a two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following Donald Trump's decision to move Israel's embassy to Jerusalem.
The pope has also repeatedly denounced the recent tide of right-wing nationalism in Europe, expressing solidarity with the Jewish people and calling on society to snuff out "any whiff" of anti-semitism.