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RATP U-turn over Christian ad ban

Censoring ad for humanitarian fundraiser was widely condemned

PARIS'S public transport operator has agreed to stop censoring a billboard ad for a Christian aid concert - after its decision received widespread condemnation from all sides of the political spectrum.

French prime minister Manuel Valls was among those who criticised the RATP for removing part of the ad for the Les Prêtres fundraiser at the Olympia in Paris, which mentioned that money raised went to a humanitarian association helping Christians persecuted in the Middle East, Maghreb and Asia.

The transport firm initially said it was applying "strict rules relating to secularism" and said the mention could be seen as backing a political cause.

It has now agreed to run the ad in full - on the same day that Pope Francis in his Easter speech called on Christians to defend the rights of those persecuted for their faith.

Manuel Valls called on the RATP to "assume its responsibilities" and said Christians in eastern countries were "victims of terror" who needed support.

Sénat président Gérard Larcher plans to call RATP bosses to a hearing to discuss the thinking behind the ban. He said the public transport operator should conduct an inquiry into what led to an "absurd and baseless decision".

Monseigneur di Falco, one of the founding members of Les Prêtres, said it was hard to understand the RATP's initial reasoning and likened the ban to "secular fundamentalism". The ad will reappear with a full mention for the "Chrétiens d'Orient" cause.

Despite the U-turn, one group, Coordination Chrétiens d'Orient en Danger (CHREDO), has decided to continue with its legal complaint against the RATP.

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