By Robin Gomes
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Olav Fykse Tveit, has condemned the “violent attacks on innocent human beings in the name of any religion,” saying they “cannot be accepted, and should not be accepted by any religion”.
A sub-group of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Nigeria released a video on 26 December, claiming to show the killing of 11 Christians. The terrorist group declared that the executions were an act of revenge for the recent killing of their high-ranked leaders.
“In the strongest possible terms, we denounce these attempts to divide the Nigerian people by turning Christians against Muslims”, Tveit said. “We must promote respect for human dignity in all circumstances, as well as for respect and diversity, to counter the hate and intolerance that are behind such acts of extreme violence”, Tveit added.
The WCC general secretary also drew attention to the Syrian people saying they “have already been subjected to too much conflict, and far too much bloodshed, destruction and displacement.”
According to the United Nations, more than 235,000 people have fled the Idlib region over the past two weeks, in the latest escalation of violence in northwest Syria, 12-26 December.
Tveit said, “The churches of the world demand an end to it – an end to the suffering of the people.” “Enough fighting, chaos and death!” he urged, adding, “It is time for peace, for respite, for dialogue, and for justice for the victims of atrocities perpetrated through these catastrophic years of violence.”
The WCC leader also condemned an attack on Saturday on a Jewish celebration at the home of a rabbi in the New York suburb of Monsey in the US, stabbing and wounding five people.
“We are condemning this attack and the anti-Semitic, racist and extremist ideology that might motivate this attack” Tveit said. “We also emphasize the importance of proper security for all, particularly minorities, in our countries.”
He said people have the right to gather at places of worship in peace, and violence against them is appalling. He said, “The assault seems to be a brazen display of racist anti-Semitism that, sadly, is on the rise in the US and elsewhere.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York has also condemned Saturday’s attack, saying, “Such acts must be condemned completely and without reservation as totally contrary to everything that people of faith stand for.”
The Monsey stabbing is the latest in a series of anti-Semitic attacks throughout New York.
“An attack on any individual or group because of his or her religious beliefs is an attack on us all,” Card. Dolan said in a statement. “This hatred has no place in our city, state, or nation, or anywhere else on our planet.”
A truck bomb that exploded at a busy security checkpoint in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday, killed at least 90 and injured many more. Many of them were university students and some were children. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
The WCC general secretary said, “Across the world, people who were living their daily lives - standing in line for shopping food, innocently walking in places that should be safe, attending worship - have been lost to their families and their communities.” “We condemn these senseless acts of violence. Let us strengthen our resolution to pursue peace and justice for all, dignity for all, the freedom to lead full lives for all.”
Tveit encouraged WCC member churches to hold those affected and killed in prayers, and called for ecumenical solidarity in the face of such attacks of terror and violence.