Pope Francis, currently visiting Turkey, has called for interreligious dialogue "so that there will be an end of all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism."   

The Pope said fighting hunger and poverty, rather than military intervention alone, were key to stopping Islamist militants carrying out "grave persecutions" in Syria and Iraq, referring to the Islamic State.

Speaking at the start of a three-day trip to Turkey, Francis said "terrorist violence" showed no sign of abating in Turkey's southern neighbours, where Islamist insurgents had declared a caliphate and persecuted Shi'ite Muslims, Christians and others who do not share their ultra-radical brand of Sunni Islam.

"It is essential that all citizens - Muslim, Jewish, and Christian - both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties," the Pope stated.

Francis faces a delicate mission in Turkey, a majority Muslim but constitutionally secular state, in strengthening ties with religious leaders while condemning violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

Turkey has been a reluctant member of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State, refusing a frontline military role but backing the Syrian opposition and calling for President Bashar al-Assad to be toppled.

It is sheltering nearly two million refugees from Syria, thousands of Christians among them. Turkey has seen its own Christian population dwindle over the past century, with decades of violence and economic and political pressure forcing most Christians to leave after World War One and the emergence of the post-Ottoman Turkish state.

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