World Jewish Leaders Condemn ‘Despicable’ ISIS Slaying of Elderly Priest in French Church Attack
Jewish leaders in Europe and the US expressed horror at Tuesday’s attack on a church in France, in which two armed ISIS terrorists took hostages and killed an elderly priest.
“An attack against a religious institution and a man of God is an attack against all religions and faith itself,” said Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress. “This dastardly attack will only strengthen our resolve to defeat the enemy of Islamist terrorism.”
The UK’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, wrote on Twitter that the attack in Normandy was a “despicable desecration of the sanctity of human life in a place of peaceful worship.” He added: “Prayers with our Catholic friends.”
Richard Verber, senior vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said in a released statement: “This callous murder of a priest in France in the name of a twisted ideology is an attack on all of us. The murder of a defenseless 84-year-old, a man who had dedicated his life to his community and was going about his own business, is beyond disturbing.”
The two assailants shouted “Allahu akbar” as they stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen in Normandy, during morning mass on Tuesday, according to Express, which cited local reports. The attackers took several people, among them nuns, hostage and killed Father Jacques Hamel, 84, by slitting his throat. A member of the congregation was seriously injured during the attack, according to Jewish News Online. The terrorists were later shot dead by police as they left the church.
A statement released by ISIS on Tuesday afternoon claimed two of its “soldiers” had carried out the attack.
World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder called the attack “a monstrous and evil act of murder committed against innocent people inside a house of worship.” He added that it “is not a war between religions, but between good and evil. We must stand as one in the face of this great threat.”
Marvin D. Nathan, national chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said terror attacks targeting places of worship are “especially barbarous, and this was an attack both on the Catholic community and all of France.” He added that together with the recent terrorist attacks in Germany and Nice, the world is seeing a “worrying increase in ISIS-inspired attacks.”
“For many years, synagogues and Jewish institutions have been targeted by Islamic extremist groups, and mosques are the houses of worship most often targeted by individuals motivated by Islamic extremist ideology,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “This unthinkable tragedy should propel world powers to continue their coordinated efforts to root out the influence of ISIS from its strongholds in Syria and Iraq to the dark corners of the Internet and social media.”
ADL expressed sympathy with French President Francois Hollande, and extended condolences to the Catholic community in France, as well as to Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said Tuesday’s attack shows “the true face of the brutal nature and the horror of terrorism.” He added, “The whole free world must understand that our values are under attack. Israel stands side by side with the people of France, and we send our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.”
Hollande visited the site of the attack with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Tuesday, Jewish News Online reported. The president posted a message on Twitter addressing “the families of the victims and all Catholics in France” as he offered “solidarity and compassion.” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls tweeted, “All of France and all Catholics are bruised. We stand together.”