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Story highlights

The Pope said the Rohingya were "good people" who were being "tortured and killed"

A UN report released in the past week alleged brutal murders and rapes in Rakhine State

(CNN) —  

Pope Francis prayed for Rohingya refugees during a general audience on Wednesday, decrying violence against them “simply because they uphold their Muslim faith.”

About 69,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine State since the outbreak of violence on October 9, according to the United Nations.

Around one million Rohingya live in Myanmar but the government doesn’t recognize them as citizens, and they’re considered to be among the most oppressed people in the world.

Reports of killings, rapes and destruction of homes have poured out of the state but are unable to be confirmed due to entry restrictions imposed by the Myanmar government.

“They are good people, they are not Christians, they are peaceful people, they are our brothers and sisters and for years they have been suffering,” Pope Francis said during his address.

“They are being tortured and killed.”

Francis called on those in attendance to join him in prayer for “our Rohingya brothers and sisters who are being chased from Myanmar and are fleeing from one place to another because no one wants them.”

Pope Francis kisses a child during a general audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican on February 8.
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP/Getty Images
Pope Francis kisses a child during a general audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican on February 8.

Child murder alleged in Rakhine State

The Pope’s statement comes less than a week after the United Nations released a report which alleged widespread brutal killings and rapes taking place inside Rakhine State.

The report was based on interviews with 220 Rohingya Muslims who fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

One young girl told interviewers her father was killed before her eyes, before her mother was raped and then thrown into a house to burn to death.

Others described children as young as five having their throats cut by soldiers.

Myanmar government spokeswoman Aye Aye Soe said they had seen the report and were “very concerned about the allegations.”

“The Investigation Commission headed by the Vice President will look into it. If evidences of violations are found we will definitely take action on them,” she told CNN via email.

The recent violence began after a group of Rohingya attacked a Myanmar border post on October 9, killing nine guards.

In response, the government began “clearance operations” to find the attackers, which has left more than 100 people dead.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Myanmar security forces may have committed “crimes against humanity.”