muslims at synodChristian emigration from the Middle East is impoverishing Arab culture and Muslims have a duty to encourage the presence of Christian minorities, a Lebanese government adviser has told a Vatican summit. (Photo: Muhammad Al-Sammak (R) at the synod for the Middle East bishops, October 14, 2010/Osservatore Romano)

Mohammad Sammak, a Sunni Muslim who is secretary general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, told a synod of bishops on Thursday the declining number of Christians in the region was a concern for all Muslims.

“The emigration of Christians is an impoverishment of the Arabic identity, of its culture and authenticity,” said Sammak, who is an adviser to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri. He added that maintaining the Christian presence in the Middle East was a “common Islamic duty.”

Iran’s Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad Ahmadabadi, a Shi’ite law professor, recognized the need to protect minority communities in his speech to the synod. “The stability of the world depends on the stability of the livelihood of small and large groups and societies,” he said.

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See also our factbox on Christians in the Middle East and analysis Vatican synod to mull Middle East Christian exodus.