Lebanese bishop praises courage of Muslim Grand Mufti in defending Mideast Christians

(Photo: . REUTERS / Caren Firouz)Members of the Lebanese Christian Maronite community carry a statue and a sample of the blood of Saint John Paul II to Saint George Cathedral in downtown Beirut May 16, 2014.

A Lebanese Maronite bishop in Paris has praised the grand mufti leading Sunni Muslims in Lebanon for defending the importance of Christians in the Middle East and condemning attacks on them as a crime against the entire population.

The words of Grand Mufti Abdel Latif Derian of Lebanon are "more than courageous," they are a "valuable" act that fits "with the spirit" of an apostolic exhortation of the late Pope John Paul II, says the Lebanese Maronite bishop in Paris.

Monsignor Maroun-Nasser Gemayel, bishop of the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Paris, was referring to the Apostolic Exhortation A hope for Lebanon by John Paul II of 1997 when he spoke to Asia News.

Abdel Latif Derian, the Sunni authority in Lebanon had reminded Muslim students of the importance of the Christian presence in the region.

He said attacks against them are a crime against the entire population, noting that Muslims and Christians share "the same fate."

For Gemayel, the Mufit's words echo John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation and this voice must be supported and nurtured.

He recently had said that the Middle East is destined to disappear if the exodus of Christians from the region continues.

The Mufti was speaking during the graduation ceremony of 350 students at Makased institutes, private Islamic schools in Lebanon.


He said, "We live in the same country with Christians, we share the air and the daily bread. We have the same destiny: our future will either be together or not."

Derian told the Muslim students and officials that attacks on Christians are a crime against the entire population.

Asia News noted that the 65-year-old Abdel Latif Derian is known as a man of peace and dialogue and critical of those who foment divisions between Sunnis and Shias.

He said Islamic schools must educate the future generations to accept the good principles of citizenship, as well as love for the Arab identity and the sense of brotherhood towards the whole human family.

Gemayel welcomed the Mufti's words with gratitude being aware of the Christian exodus from the Middle East to European nations, especially France.

"Living in the same region, having experienced in the past hours of glory and sadness, Christians and Muslims are called to build together a future of collaboration and conviviality," as Pope John Paul II said in his exhortation.

The shared task of "building together" the region should be "shouted out loud", he explained, and "opposed to all the wars" that have devastated the Middle East, starting from the barbarity perpetrated by the jihadists of the Islamic State group.

At the same time, the part of the Muslim world that works for dialogue and peace must always find more room and a greater voice because it represents "the wind of hope."

"It is necessary that this voice, which meets the expectations of Christians, spread everywhere," the bishop said. It must become the grassroot voice of Muslims, "the voice of everyone" to allows us to enter into a true "logic of peace".

In Lebanon, where some of the political parties rely on sectarian support, he said a new party must be created, that of "living together. The moment has come for this conviviality to be asserted and consolidated once and for all."

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