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French Muslim leaders call for solidarity with endangered Christians in Middle East

media French Muslim leaders , Grande Mosquée, Paris, 9 September 2014. AFP PHOTO/Lionel Bonaventure

Muslim leaders in France signed a joint document on Tuesday expressing their support for endangered Christians in the Middle East.

They held a news conference Tuesday to call for a national day of prayer in support of Christians in the Middle East and to call on imams in France to use their influence to discourage young people from joining the Islamic State jihadist group.

"We are all, no matter what our religion, Christians of the Middle East", said Dalil Boubakeur, rector of Paris Central Mosque, "It is essential to support Christians against barbarity".

French Muslim Democrats, Muslims of France, the Paris Mosque, Christians of the Orient in Danger, Turkish Muslims of France, the Orthodox Coptic Church in France, Human Rights France-Egypt Organisation and Coptic Associations in Europe, were all present on Tuesday at the central Mosque in Paris to sign the so-called Appel de Paris against the Islamic State.

The Muslim leaders called on French mosques to offer prayers for endangered Christians who are fleeing some areas in the middle east by the thousands as they face a choice between conversion or death.

Three weeks ago, about 40 Iraqi Christians were flown into Paris after having fled Islamic extremists rampaging through large swathes of northern Iraq. French authorities have granted asylum to many more.

"The Islamic State group is neither Muslim nor a state" said  the 'Appel de Paris' in a message to French youth as French youngsters make up the biggest number of European jihadis heading to fight in Syria and Iraq.

French officials estimate that about 900 French nationals or residents have travelled to Syria or plan to go there.

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