At a gathering in Rome with Lebanon’s new cardinal, Pope Benedict XVI launched a new appeal for peace in Syria and the Middle East, the Associated Press reported.
“The church encourages all efforts for peace in the world and in the Middle East, a peace that will only be effective if it is based on authentic respect for other people,” Benedict told the gathering, which included several Lebanese pilgrims.
Benedict also spoke out concerning the plight of Christians from their traditional homelands throughout the Middle East, calling for them to be able to “live their faith freely.”
Christian communities have come under assault by Muslims amid the upheaval related to the “Arab Spring.” Tens of thousands of Syrian Christians have fled the civil war there, while Egypt’s Coptic Christian community fears the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-extremist Salafi groups to power.
Recently, several Coptic Christian teenage women were assaulted by other women on Cairo subways because their hair was uncovered. Many Coptic women are now afraid to ride the transit system in fear of being assaulted or sexually harassed, according to Morning Star News.