Jewish world condemns terrorist attack on French church
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder has issued a strong condemnation of the terrorist attack at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, in France, calling it “a monstrous and evil act of murder committed against innocent people inside a house of worship.”
An 86-year Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, died after his throat was slit this morning in the church. Together with two nuns and two parishioners, Fr. Hamel had been being taken hostage by two men who reportedly shouted ‘Daesh’ (a synonym for the Islamist terror group ISIS) when storming into the church. One other victim was in a life-threatening condition, and the three other also suffered injuries.
Police stormed the church at around 11 a.m. local time on Tuesday and killed the two attackers. French President François Hollande said in a statement that ISIS was behind the attack.
Lauder conveyed his and the Jewish people’s condolences to the people of France, to Pope Francis and the leaders of the Catholic Church in France.
Lauder said: “This morning, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of yet another atrocious attack, and with the good people of France who sadly have become so familiar with the reality of terrorism in recent months.
“Alas, there is no respite. Every day, these terrorists make it abundantly clear to the world that nothing is sacred to them, that they will not shy away from any execrable affront to the most basic values of our society.
“Let’s be clear: this is not a war between religions, but between good and evil. We must stand as one in the face of this great threat. We must not be intimidated, but cherish our freedom, including the freedom to worship. We must speak out and not be silent. We must defend each other, and we must look after one another: one religious community after the other, one country after the other. This evil scourge won’t be defeated unless we are united in our resolve to defeat it,” said the WJC president.
Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin said: “This attack shows the true face of the brutal nature and the horror of terrorism. The whole free world must understand that our values are under attack.”
Following the terror attack in the Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray church in France, President Reuven Rivlin reiterated his call for international unity in the face of the threat of terrorism and religious hatred. “This attack shows the true face of the brutal nature and horror of terrorism. This is an attack by radical extremists, terrorists, who have struck at the very symbol of peace and murdered in cold blood in a house of God, while they pretend to speak in His name.”
He stressed, “The whole free world must understand that our values are under attack. We must fight to defend them, lest we be overtaken by waves of intolerance and hatred,” and added, “Israel stands side by side with the people of France, and we send our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.”
Earlier in the day, President Rivlin met with the Father Francesco Patton, who was recently appointed as Custos of the Holy Land.
President Rivlin told him, “The whole world must stand up and fight to bring to an end the terrible winds of fundamentalism of those who believe that they have a right to harm or even kill those who do not have the same beliefs as them. It is our duty, each and every one of us, from every nation, every religion, every human being to oppose this.”
He reiterated to Father Patton, “I can assure you, that the Government of Israel and the nation of Israel respect the ability of every human being to worship God as they choose.” He added, that “one of the most important values that Israel holds is the principle of the freedom to worship God according to the beliefs of everyone. We know very well here in Jerusalem that there is only one God, he is the God of all us, and he gave us the freedom to worship him according to our beliefs. Although there are those who say there is a religious war – this is blasphemy.”
The President concluded, “Your position as the guardian of your beliefs in Jerusalem is very important to us and I welcome you from the bottom of my heart, as President of Israel and as a seventh generation Jerusalemite. Last year, I visited the Pope and we spoke about the Land of the Monasteries on the Jordan Valley. There are many people around the world who want to visit this very important place, where your traditions teach is the site of the Baptism, and we are working to develop this area to welcome pilgrims and also for water conservation. Our cooperation together on this with all the peoples of the Holy Land is a message to the whole world.”
Father Patton thanked the President for his warm words, and said, “I visited here many years ago, and I am proud to return to serve my order and the Pope. I am very open to every kind of cooperation, we know that we have to always work together and maintain our good relationships, as you say this is a message to the whole world. Today the message coming from this region is not good, and we must work for peace, God asks that we work for peace.”
Dr. Abramovich, chairman of the Australian’s ADC, added: “This evil deed, at a place of worship, is an act of outrage that will shock all good people around the world. Taken with the recent attacks in France, Germany, Belgium and other countries, it is clear that ISIS-inspired acts are on the rise.
This heartbreaking tragedy once again reinforces the need by the international community to work together to defeat ISIS and other extremist islamist terror groups. It should also drive governments to increase their efforts in combatting the dark underbelly of social media which is a hotbed of radicalisation and incitement. We convey our deepest sympathies and thoughts to the victim’s family, to the Catholic community in France and to the French people.”
Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray lies on the outskirts of Rouen, the capital of the Normandy region in north-western France. It was the first such attack committed by jihadist terrorist against a church in Europe.