BEIRUT/ SIDON, Lebanon: Lebanon police Sunday implemented intensive security measures to ensure safety during Easter mass across the country.
Internal Security Forces personnel and Lebanese Army units deployed heavily around the entrances to the churches so as to prevent any security threats to worshipers.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk had ordered ISF units to announce hair-trigger alerts on the occasion, for fear of extremist attacks targeting Christians in Lebanon.
Police patted down worshipers before they were allowed entry into the churches.
At other locations, a metal detector was erected at the entrances to churches, under which people were required to walk before entering.
The measures come as part of a comprehensive security plan against potential extremist attacks.
Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt have intensified fears of a similar scenario occurring in Lebanon during Easter Sunday mass.
Two ISIS suicide bombers struck two Coptic churches north of Cairo on April 9, killing and wounding dozens, in an attack that spurred fear and condemnation across the Arab world.
"Thanks to you (ISF) we were safe this holiday,” a Twitter user said, praising ISF for their efforts.
Easter celebrations spread joy across the country.
Children and adults alike, both Christians and Muslims, gathered after mass in the southern city of Sidon and other villages for traditional egg tapping competitions.
The egg dyeing and distribution to all churches in Sidon was part of an initiative by the city's National Evangelical Institute to celebrate Easter.
In the traditional neighborhoods of Sidon, members of the Ethiopian community held a recital at the entrance to the Saint Nicolas Church in the city.
Members of the Russian, Ukranian and Filipino communities in the south also took part in mass.
Sermons Preach Peace and Dialogue
Preachers during Easter Sunday mass stressed the need to denounce sectarian sedition and maintain peaceful co-existence, as well as support the revival of state institutions and build a modern state.
During mass, Catholic Bishop of Sidon Elie Haddad said, “We heard some hints of a conflict that reminded us of the (1975-1990) Civil War. Indeed, not having a civil war in Lebanon is a miracle these days.”
“We urge every Lebanese citizen to be alert and to refrain from being drawn into the game of war that will perish us all.”
Haddad called on Palestinian “brothers” in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp to end any armed conflict, adding that “dialogue is the best method to solve even severe issues.”
Clashes in Sidon’s and Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp rocked the city for several days in early April, leaving at least ten dead and some 15 wounded, before a cease-fire was reached on April 12.
Haddad also comemmorated “the martyrs of Egypt and Syria” who lost their lives to extremist attacks in the ongoing violence.