"We are all Nazarenes," hundreds chant at protest.
Some 2000 people stood under the Paris summer sun for hours Sunday in front of Notre Dame Cathedral to express their solidarity with Christians in Iraq, an action which may have contributed to today’s announcement from the French government that it would grant asylum to those persecuted by the Islamic State.
"France is outraged by these abuses that it condemns with the utmost firmness," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a joint statement on Monday.
Like a smaller protest outside the French National Assembly in Paris a week ago, Sunday’s demonstration saw many people holding up a placard with the Arabic letter nun, or N, which was painted on the homes of Christians in Mosul earlier this month.
"Them today, us tomorrow," some people chanted outside Notre Dame, while others declared, "We all are Nazareans," using the Koranic word for Christians.
"France, country of human rights, where are you?" was yet another slogan heard on Sunday.
In addition, more than 500 people in Lyon gathered on Saturday with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin on the eve of his departure for Iraq.
Speaking in front of the Paris cathedral before going inside where she was scheduld to read the prayer intentions during Mass, Sister Nathalie Becquarts, from the French Bishops’ Conference, said, "It’s very important to say that it’s not a problem between Muslims, Jews or Christians. It’s a problem between fanatics and people from every religion. We’re here to express our solidarity with all the people suffering in the Middle East.”
Sister Nathalie noted that on Monday, two French bishops would travel to Iraq to meet Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako and other Christians. “We must tell them, ‘You are not alone; we want to give you our prayers. The Church is universal, and we all are brothers and sisters in Christ."
At the end of the demonstration, protesters joined together in praying the Lord’s Prayer in French and Aramaic. Then many went inside to attend a Mass for Christians in the Middle East.
At the Mass Paris Auxiliary Bishop Renauld Marie de Dinechin read a letter from Patriarch Sako to the Christians of Iraq. In an emotional moment at the end of Mass the Ave Maria was sung in Aramaic.