Christians and Muslims must keep living together in the Middle East, say Eastern Catholic bishops

Lebanese and Syrian Christian Maronites pray for peace in Syria. The majority of Lebanon's two million refugees are Syrian.Reuters

A conference of Maronite Catholic bishops has called for a Christian presence to remain in the Middle East, and for believers to live alongside Muslims "in a climate of freedom, democracy and respect for diversity."

They discussed the situation of the Maronite bishops who are based in Syria, including Damascus and Aleppo, but said they resisted "all international plans" for partitioning the region and called instead to remain "living together, Christians and Muslims," according to the Catholic News Service.

Many Christians have fled due to violent conflicts that have afflicted the region, as well as persecution from radical Islamists in recent years. The Pope and the 'Vicar of Baghdad' Andrew White among others have highlighted the flight of Christians from the area.

The Maronite Church, an Eastern particular church of the Catholic Church, has its roots in Lebanon, where the synod took place this week. However Maronite bishops from around the world were present at the meeting.

They also highlighted the suffering of the people of Aleppo, who have "a scarcity of (the) necessities of life, such as water, electricity and food, and the demolition of homes and the loss of life-taking, in addition to thousands of dead and wounded, widows and the displaced."

They highlighted the poverty of the Syrian people that has been worsened by the conflict and the deteriorating economic situation. "Poverty has become universal," they said.

Concerns about the worsening economic situation in Lebanon were also raised, and calls to action made to improve the economy.

The synod urged the international community to offer aid and assistance to Lebanon to meet the needs of the two million refugees there, most of whom are Syrian, and to work for their "early return" to their homeland.