Like all acts of senseless and inhumane violence, the recent attacks and murders carried out in France and Austria are a source of immeasurable sadness for the members of the European Council of Religious Leaders, the National Interreligious Councils, and the whole Religions for Peace family. First and foremost our thoughts, prayers, and what support we can offer, are with those directly affected by these unconscionable crimes.
Whilst claimed to be carried out by followers of Islam, these people bear no semblance to our Muslim sisters and brothers we work with, know, trust and admire. As a close union of different religious traditions, leaders and communities, we unconditionally condemn acts of barbarity and cowardliness carried out in the name of Islam, or indeed any religion. We all share the task of opposing by peaceful means the abuse of our own and other’s religion in the name of violence.
At such times the impulse is to leap to the defence of Islam, or indeed religion as a whole. However, to do this might suggest a divide between people who are religious and those who identify as secular. Sowing division and hate is the intention of these aggressors, and in such appalling cases no such divide exists. The distinction is only between:
Those who unconditionally condemn such gross and indefensible behaviour – and those who do not.
Those who wish for a world of kindness and peace – and those who wilfully propagate hate and cruelty.
Those who believe in respecting the laws and social norms of the societies in which they live, including religious freedom and freedom of expression, so that they can peacefully coexist with those who do not share their beliefs – and those who are willing to commit heinous acts in order to try and dominate and oppress others.
Those who believe in resolving fundamental, and sometimes extremely painful and difficult problems, in a respectful, civilized, and just way – and those who hold such misguided and distorted views, that they imagine such barbarous acts can ever achieve their aims.
As members of Religions for Peace Europe committed to peaceful and respectful coexistence, we stand in solidarity with people of all religions and none who unconditionally reject such cruel and indiscriminate acts of violence. Such instances make us more determined to strive harder, as religions together, to help bring peace and understanding, to ourselves, our communities and all those who need it.
Dr Luigi De Salvia
Rev. Dr Thomas Wipf & Dr Mark Owen