The National Council of Churches Stands with Muslims in Condemning French Attack
The National Council of Churches joins the world in expressing outrage upon the news of the killings of the 12 employees of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. We condemn the killings, along with any ideology that seeks to silence voices of comment and criticism, especially with the use of extremist violence fueled by political ideology or misguided religious zeal. We also defend the rights of those who critique even that which is deemed sacred and untouchable to others, even as we ask that this critique always take place in a spirit of charity because of the inherent sensitivities.
At the same time, we fear that this defense of free expression may feed anti-Muslim sentiment and bring further division between Christians and Muslims. We are also aware that this same defense of free expression may be further misinterpreted by extremists as being against Islam itself. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, as we speak out against this act of senseless violence and its perpetrators, we join with Muslims across the globe who are also horrified by this evil.
“Around the world, millions of Muslims have struggled against oppression in their own societies in order to obtain the very rights that the Paris attackers have attempted to silence,” said NCC President and General Secretary James Winkler. “These freedoms are treasured by people of faith everywhere, except by those who follow politically motivated ideologies that seek to violently to stifle them and sow seeds of fear.”
NCC Associate General Secretary for interfaith relations Tony Kireopoulos said, “Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of a democratic society, and we condemn, not only the attack on the victims of the violence, but the attack on this fundamental right.” He added: “Likewise, freedom of religion is another cornerstone of a democratic society. Therefore we also stand against those who would use this occasion to avenge this attack by perpetrating violence against Muslims in our own communities. We’ve seen it before, we do not want to see it again.”
The National Council of Churches is a partner with the Shoulder-to-Shoulder campaign, an effort to resist Islamophobia. We also co-sponsor the National Muslim-Christian Initiative, an ongoing dialogue between Muslim and Christians.
“Tragedies like these, and the unfortunate aftermath that usually follows, underscores the importance of efforts like the ongoing Muslim-Christian Dialogue,” said NCC Chair Roy Medley. “We are always pleased to work with our dialogue partners, people who show forth the true nature of faith.”
One of our dialogue partners and a co-convener of the dialogue, Naeem Baig of the Islamic Circle of North America and the Moderator of Religions for Peace USA, said in response to the killings: “All of the world’s religions are founded on messages of peace and condemn violence. What makes this attack particularly egregious is its attempt to threaten the fundamental human right of freedom of speech.”
The National Council of Churches is proud to join with a multitude of voices calling people worldwide to stand together and use this attack as an opportunity to engage in dialogue and peacemaking.