Beirut -- A mass ceremony was held at the Angel Raphael Cathedral in Hazmieh Sunday to pray for the souls of Christians who died during attacks in Iraq.
A number of political figures attended the mass, and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Michel Aoun strongly condemned the dangers facing Iraqi Christians.
The mass ceremony was presided over by Chaldean Archbishop Michel Kasarji and was held to commemorate the death of more than 50 people killed earlier this month in Baghdad.
Gunmen from the Islamic State of Iraq -- an Al-Qaeda affiliated organization -- stormed Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church during Sunday Mass. Fifty-eight parishioners were killed during the attempted hostage-rescue operation and doubts escalated over the future of the country's Christians.
Aoun gave a speech after the mass and after Kasarji awarded him an honorary shield as a token of appreciation.
The FPM leader started by focusing on the "persecution" Christians in Iraq were facing despite being outside any armed conflict.
"What is happening in Iraq today raises the question why Iraqi Christians are being murdered," he said, adding that the actual situation in Baghdad "contradicts all religions."
"Killing is unacceptable, especially when aimed at those who remain peaceful," he then confirmed, adding that the Our Lady of Salvation Church murder was being wrongly used against Islam.
"We don't want the world to be Islamophobic," he added.
Aoun then called on Iraq's neighboring countries to react directly to the Iraqi cause, adding that the Levant has always been known for embracing different religions and cultures.
Middle Eastern religions, societies and traditions preached coexistence, Aoun said.
"We share the same values but the situation becomes dangerous when fatwas come from all directions, responsibly and irresponsibly, and permit all types of crimes," Aoun said, warning that the actions of individuals were being generalized in a way that harms Christians, Muslims and everyone living in the Middle East.
Aoun then wished peace for Iraq and said Baghdad was encountering troubles not because of internal difficulties but rather from the constant pressures it was experiencing.
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Daily Star, Lebanon