French Muslims support Mideast Christians against Islamic State

Tue Sep 9, 2014 10:36am EDT
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By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor

PARIS, Sept 9 (Reuters)- The Muslim Council in France, home to Europe's largest Islamic minority, denounced the persecution of Middle East Christians on Tuesday and said mosques across the country would pray for them this week.

In a joint statement with a Christian group, the Council (CFCM) said "barbarians are perpetrating crimes against humanity" in the region "exploiting Islam as their banner".

Several French Muslim groups have already condemned the harsh tactics of Islamic State, the radical movement that has declared a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, but this was the first time they got together with Christians to support the victims.

The Vatican and Christian leaders in Western countries have called on Muslims to speak out against Islamic State. Many have, but the decentralized nature of Islam means these individual declarations often carry less weight than a joint effort.

"The signatories reaffirm their support to their Middle Eastern Christian brothers, many of them Arabs, as well as for all other minorities in the region who are now victims of a destructive campaign by these terrorist groups that threaten their existence," the joint declaration stated.

Islamic State fighters drove Christians from Iraq's northern city of Mosul in July, ending a presence stretching back to the early years of Christianity. The Sunni Islamist group has also targeted Shi'ite Muslims and religious minorities, executing hundreds of captives in Iraq and neighboring Syria.

"The issue of Middle Eastern Christians is not only one for Christians," said Patrick Karam, head of the group Endangered Middle East Christians that drew up the statement with the Muslim Council. "French Muslims are with us to support them."

There are about five million Muslims in France, about eight percent of the population. Other large Muslim minorities live in Britain and Germany.   Continued...

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Stringer