Christian-Muslim Leaders in Lebanon Call For Security

BEIRUT (CNS) — Christian and Muslim leaders in Lebanon called for the formation of a legal committee to protect all religions.

In a statement following a Muslim-Christian summit Sept. 25 at Bkerke, the seat of the Maronite Catholic church, north of Beirut, religious leaders also condemned the “Innocence of Muslims” film and denounced “violent reactions that led to innocent casualties and harm to Christians and places of worship in a number of countries.”

Speaking to reporters before the summit over which he presided, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai said the “‘Innocence of Muslims’ is offensive to Christians as well as to every religion. A resolution must be adopted at the international level to prevent the insult to religions.”

The leaders said in the statement that “an attack against any religion is an attack against all religions.”

The leaders called for the United Nations and Arab League to take necessary measures to prevent the abuse of religions and their symbols, saying that the tensions created between Muslims and Christians could lead to strife.

They called for a committee to be formed “of specialized legal experts in international law to draft the appropriate text and to study measures to protect monotheistic religions from insults and slander, with these offenses facing legal prosecution.”

The leaders praised Pope Benedict XVI’s Sept. 14- 16 “historical visit to Lebanon that came at the right time,” saying that the pope’s message to the Lebanese served as a reminder that their country represented a space for “interaction and dialogue, and not an arena for conflict.”

“Despite the Lebanese internal situation and the concern over the regional changes, the pope still believes that Lebanon holds a historical and civilized message to the whole world,” the statement said.

The leaders confirmed their support for an apostolic exhortation by Pope Benedict that he delivered during his visit. The 90-page document offered the pope’s reflections on the special Synod of Bishops in 2010, which was dedicated to Middle East Christians.

They said the exhortation affirms “the depth of historical relations between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East and that Lebanon is an example of these proper relations and Christian-Islamic cooperation.”

The leaders also addressed Lebanon’s economic crisis, saying that the country’s youth in particular need more job opportunities.

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