Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church and the sovereign of Vatican City, asked countries across the world to welcome Afghan refugees who are fleeing Afghanistan after the country’s reigns fell to the Taliban. During his St. Peter’s Square address on Sunday, Pope Francis said, “In these tumultuous moments, in which Afghans are seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them, I pray so that many countries welcome and protect all those seeking a new life.”

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Without referring to the Taliban or their regime, the Pope said, “May young Afghans receive an education, which is essential for human development, and may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbours.”

The Taliban, a hardcore militant Islamist group, captured power in Afghanistan on August 15. Since then, thousands of Afghans have either fled or have tried to flee the country in fear of a return to the ‘dark days’ when Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan was characterised by a brutal suppression of civil liberties, curbs placed on women, their right to work, pursue an education and even venture outside the house alone, and a ban on cinema and music and all things that the Islamist group considered ‘western’.

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In Sunday’s address, Pope Francis said that he also prays for internally displaced Afghans “that they may have assistance and necessary protection”.

A few days ago, one of Pope Francis’ comments on Afghanistan had landed into controversy, when the Pope mistakenly attributed a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin to German chancellor Angela Merkel.

The Pope, in a bid to criticize western involvement in Afghanistan had said, “It’s necessary to stop the irresponsible policy of enforcing (the West’s) own values on others,” adding “and attempts to build democracy in other countries based on outside models without taking into account historic, ethnic and religious issues and fully ignoring other people’s traditions”.