Maronite Leader Expresses Concern About Christians in Syria

Maronite Patriarch Mar Beshara Boutros el-Rai expressed concern on the situation of Christians in Syria and the increasing number of displaced Syrians living in Lebanon.

During his meeting with French President Francois Hollande at the Elysee Palace in Paris Tuesday, Patriarch Rahi said a large number of Orthodox Christians- about 60 percent of those displaced- had left Syria, and that the solution there must be political. Patriarch Rahi stressed that President Bashar el-Assad is not worse than those who are fighting in Syria.

"[France] is committed to stability of Lebanon and political harmony among all components of the Lebanese community in order to preserve civil peace and national unity," President Hollande said in a statement.

"France remains very interested in the situation of Christians in the Middle, those who constitute a key component of the identity of the country and the region," he added, while stressing the "historical ties with the Maronite Patriarchate and Maronite people of Lebanon."

Sources said Hollande's meeting with Patriarch Rahi began with an extended session followed by a closed meeting between the president and the patriarch, London's Al-Hayat newspaper reported.

The sources also said that when Hollande asked about Hezbollah, the patriarch replied that he has talks with the party that represent the Shiite community in Lebanon and has relationships with all communities in Lebanon.