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Armenians, Copts celebrate Christmas, stress need for unity.

Summary: BEIRUT: Christians in the Middle East will remain entrenched in the region despite the difficulties they face, said Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia on the occasion of Christmas Thursday. The celebration of Orthodox Christmas by Armenians and Copts, on Jan. 6 and 7 respectively, was tempered this year by the recent bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt

BEIRUT: Christians in the Middle East will remain entrenched in the region despite the difficulties they face, said Catholicos Aram I of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia on the occasion of Christmas Thursday.

The celebration of Orthodox Christmas by Armenians and Copts, on Jan. 6 and 7 respectively, was tempered this year by the recent bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria, Egypt.

"Christianity was established in this region, and will remain deeply rooted in the East, irrespective of the current challenges," said Aram I during a Christmas Mass at the Armenian Catholicosate in Antelias. "Muslim-Christian coexistence has been and will continue to be the backbone of peace and development in the region."

Aram I reiterated the significance of the church today in spreading harmony between people of all faiths.

"We should not forget that the final message by Jesus Christ to his disciples was to spread his teaching around the world, and we should also not forget that Jesus' Bible is the Bible of love and harmony," Aram I added.

He also called on all Lebanese to work together to achieve peace and progress in the interest of the country's freedom, independence and sovereignty.

"Our Lebanese belonging should prevail over our friendship and alliances with others who remain strangers even if they seem friendly C* and we should see Lebanese national interests win out over all other friendly and personal interests," said Aram I, addressing worshippers.

Aram I also condemned the bombing that targeted a Coptic church in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria, which killed more than 20 people and injured dozens of others during a New Year's Eve midnight service.

"We thank God that we are not facing such religious problems in Lebanon and therefore we must confront all political disputes with mutual respect in the interest of our country," he added.

Aram I emphasized the importance of Lebanon's unique foundation which provided equal rights to all Lebanese before the law. But he warned all Lebanese from doubting each others' nationality.

"Lebanon is a nation for all its citizens, and irrespective of the sect or party they belong to, they remain true Lebanese; no one has the right to doubt the patriotism of others," Aram I added.

While Armenians celebrated Christmas Thursday, the Copts held their celebrations Friday amid tensions and grievances following the Egypt attack.

"As Christians we must emulate our lord Jesus Christ, the prophet of love and peace; forgiveness should fill our hearts despite all the difficulties that we are facing in our lives, since love is the greatest weapon against terrorism and strife," said Father Rouis Orshalimi, the head of the Coptic Church during a Mass at the Coptic Church in Jisr al-Basha Friday.

Addressing the crowd and the officials representing Lebanon's communities, Orshalimi thanked all Lebanese who expressed sympathy and condemned the terrorist act that targeted the Alexandria church.

Egypt's ambassador to Lebanon, Ahmad Bidaoui, attended the Mass and extended holiday greetings on behalf of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, reiterating that Egypt would not let terrorism and violence affect the security of the country's Christians.

"Egypt will not let strife divide its Christians and Muslims and it will remain strong through its citizens' unity," Bidaoui added. -- The Daily Star

Copyright 2011, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Jan 8, 2011
Words:617
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