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Pope Francis Opens New Year With Call to Help Refugees

Pope Francis’ resolutions don’t change much year to year — world peace and helping the world’s poor seem to be his abiding goals.

And this year is no different.

The Catholic Church’s spiritual leader began 2018 with a speech dedicated to refugees and migrants, according to a transcript from the Vatican.

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During the Catholic Church’s annual Jan. 1 World Day of Peace celebration, Francis called on the world to help “all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination and persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.”

Delivered to a crowd of 40,000 in the Vatican, the speech challenged what he sees as a pattern of xenophobia in countries where refugees and migrants seek safety and opportunity, according to the Catholic news site Crux.

“Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being,” Francis said.  

Read More: ‘Sesame Street’ Just Got $100 Million to Help Refugee Kids

There are currently 65.6 million displaced people in the world, the highest amount ever recorded. Throughout 2017, violent conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, South Sudan, and elsewhere put millions of people at risk.

Towards the end of last year, Francis visited Myanmar, where more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees have been the victims of what the United Nations and other world leaders have called an ethnic cleansing.

"In the name of all of those who have persecuted you, hurt you, I ask forgiveness," Francis told Rohingya refugees at the time. "I appeal to your large hearts to give us the forgiveness that we are asking."

Read More: Luxury Jewelers Accused of Funding Myanmar’s Rohingya Genocide

Francis continually uses his clout to raise awareness for the world’s refugees and migrants and urge leaders to provide aid.

For instance, he has called on European countries to admit more refugees and migrants, visited the US-Mexico border to ease political tensions, and regularly hosts refugees to profess his support for them.

This past Christmas, Francis likened the plight of refugees to that of Jesus Christ, hoping to elicit compassion from fellow Christians, according to Time.  

His latest message continues this tradition and he closed it out by calling on the United Nations to draft two global compacts that would protect the safe travel of refugees and migrants around the global.

Read More: 27 Heartwarming Stories About Refugees From 2017

“Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions,” he said. “Welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.”

Global Citizen campaigns on the protection of refugees and you can take action on this issue here.