A dozen of Muslim men stood outside a church in France to protect Christians from any potential attacks during midnight Christmas Mass on Thursday.

Members of the Muslim community in Lens (Pas-de-Calais), northern France, arrived in one of the city’s churches to guard Christians, while they prayed and enjoyed their midnight mass on such a memorable holiday, Belgium’s RTL reported.

Abdelkader Aoussedj, President of the Federation of Muslim Associations of Nord-Pas-de-Calais said that it was a “strong gesture” of unity and tolerance between Muslims and Christians.

According to the same source, this symbolic initiative came after the French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for strengthening security at the entrance of churches during Christmas Mass.

Hashim El Jazaoui, Secretary of the Union of Muslim Citizens (UCM) in Pas-de-Calais organized the initiative to protect Christians during their midnight mass.

“We want to say that we are all together. We are brothers. We are in the same boat. If the boat sinks, we all sink. If mentally ill people want to kill us, they will have to kill us all together,” El Jazaoui in a statement.

Brahim Aït Moussa, another member of UCM, commented on the demonstration of love and support.

“It’s above all – a message of love. Nowadays, we find it hard to tell people we love that we love them. We have a hard time to heart it too,” he said.

The warm gesture was received with gratitude by the clergy and the 200 Christians who attended last night’s mass.

Father Lemblé, in charge of the sermon at the Lens church, ended his prayer by giving the ‘Bethlehem light’, symbolizing peace to members of the Muslim community.

According to the same source, a woman who attended the midnight mass expressed her gratitude to Muslims.

“It was very good of them. They must be suffering a lot right now,” she said in reference to the Islamophobia resulting from the Paris attacks of November 13 that claimed the lives of 129 people and injured 350 others.

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