* Pope on second day of Lebanon trip
* Tells youths not to leave Middle East despite problems
* Christians from Syria and Iraq attend rally with pope
By Philip Pullella and Erika Solomon
BEIRUT, Sept 15 Pope Benedict urged multi-faith
Lebanon on Saturday to be a model of religious peace for the
Middle East, as a civil war raged in neighbouring Syria,
deepening sectarian divisions.
"Lebanon is called, now more than ever, to be an example,"
he told political and religious leaders on the second day of a
visit that coincided with violent protests across the Muslim
world against a U.S.-made film insulting Islam.
Lebanon - torn apart by a 1975-1990 sectarian civil war - is
a religious mosaic of over four million people whose Muslim
majority includes Sunnis, Shi'ites and Alawites. Christians,
over one-third of the population, are divided into more than a
dozen churches, six of them linked to the Vatican.
The German-born pontiff, 85, delivered his morning speech in
French at the presidential palace after meeting President Michel
Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, Sunni Prime Minister Najib
Mikati and parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri, a Shi'ite.
At a rally later in the day, he told thousands of cheering
young people not to let discrimination, unemployment and
instability drive them abroad and reminded young Syrian
Christians in the crowd that "the pope has not forgotten you."
Addressing young Muslims also there, he said "together with
young Christians, you are the future of this fine country and of
the Middle East in general. Seek to built it up together!"
Peace between warring factions and among the many religious
groups in the Middle East has been a central theme of Benedict's
visit, along with his call to Christians not to leave the region
despite war and growing pressure from radical Islamists.
Amira Chabchoul, a Muslim onlooker outside the palace said:
"We came to support the pope and also get support from him,
because our experience has been that when we listen to him, we
are touched and we are helped in our lives."
CHRISTIANS AND MUSLIMS
On Friday, protesters against the anti-Islam film dodged
gunfire and tear gas to hurl stones at security forces in
Lebanon's Tripoli where one demonstrator was killed. Protesters
chanted "We don't want the pope" and "No more insults"
A Vatican spokesman said the pope was being kept informed of
protests against the film, circulated on the Internet under
several titles including "Innocence of Muslims".
Benedict began his visit on Friday with a call for an end to
all arms supplies to Syria, where the tiny Christian minority
fears reprisals if Islamists come to power at the end of the
bloody insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad.
He also described the Arab Spring movement as a "cry for
freedom" that was a positive development as long as it ensured
tolerance for all religions.
Coptic Christians, about 10 percent of Egypt's population,
have come under repeated attack by Islamists since the overthrow
of former President Hosni Mubarak. They worry the new government
will strengthen Islamic law in the new constitution.
In Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, hardline Salafis have brought a
new religious intolerance against fellow Muslims such as Sufis,
whose shrines they are destroying as heretical.
"If we want peace, let us defend life," Benedict said. "This
approach leads us to reject not only war and terrorism, but
every assault on innocent human life."
The pope held a private meeting with leaders of the Sunni,
Shi'ite and Alawite Muslim communities and of the Druze, an
offshoot of Shi'ism with other influences.
Chief Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani, the supreme Sunni
leader, praised him for visiting "in these fateful circumstances
that Lebanon and the region are living through" and stressed the
common goals of both faiths "in the whole Arab world".
"The flight of Christians hurts us Muslims because it means
we cannot live with others," he said. Emigration, wars and a low
birth rate have cut Christian ranks to 5 percent of the Middle
Eastern population compared with 20 percent a century ago.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rai told the pope that young
Christians in the Middle East were suffering political and
social crises that tested their faith.
"Their concerns grow in the face of ... rising religious
fundamentalism that believes neither in the right to be
different nor in the freedom of conscience or religion, and that
resorts to violence as the only way to reach its goals," he
At a youth rally outside the Maronite Patriarchate on a
mountaintop overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Benedict said
Middle Eastern Christians had the honour of living in the region
where Jesus was born and Christianity began.
Benedict urged the region's young Christians not to "taste
the sweet bitterness of emigration".
About 250 Chaldean and Syriac Christians from Iraq waved
Iraqi and Kurdish flags as the pope arrived with Rai in his
gleaming white popemobile. A giant rosary made of balloons
floated above the waiting crowd.
"We flew here three days ago to see him," said Nuhaya
Bassam, 33, from Baghdad. "It's definitely worth the hassle, to
us, he's God's representative on Earth."
"If anyone needs him right now, it's the Christians of the
Middle east," said an Irbil man named Hani, 24.
A Syrian student priest, Khudr Samaan, said he was thrilled
to see the pope and he wanted to tell fellow Syrians not to be
"My family couldn't make it here because of the difficult
conditions," he said. "I don't think I could make it back to
them if I tried, either, so I'm stuck here a while."