(Vatican Radio) Four French Imams, who’ve been part of a Catholic-Muslim delegation visiting the Vatican this week, have expressed their shock and condemnation of the attack on the satirical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’. Wednesday’s attack by masked gunmen in Paris left 12 people dead, with several others in critical condition.
In a statement at the end of their 3 day visit to Rome, the delegation, which includes Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, urges all believers to combat hatred and all forms of violence which destroy life, violate the dignity of the human person and undermine peaceful coexistence between peoples.
Pope Francis, who met with the delegation just as the attack was taking place, denounced the killings and offered prayers for the victims and their families. Also taking part in the delegation was Bishop Michel Dubost, who heads the French bishops’ council for interfaith relations. Philippa Hitchen talked to him about the Muslim leaders’ reactions to the attack and about the difficulty of promoting interreligious dialogue in France today…
Bishop Dubost says it was terrible for the Muslim leaders as it was an attack on democracy which requires freedom of information – even if you don’t agree with that kind of information. He says he was very glad to be with the imams at that moment to show affection and understanding of the difficulties they face.
The Catholic leader says he was impressed with Pope Francis who spoke a little French to each of the imams, speaking to their hearts and asking them to pray for him – as believers, he says, we have a necessity to pray for each other…
Asked whether he was surprised by the attack, Bishop Dubost says people were aware this kind of crime could happen, but what strikes him most is how difficult the national dialogue has become. “We planned our meeting here,” he says, "to show that dialogue is a necessity….and I think interreligious dialogue is a kind of model for society…..if we want to build peace, we have to go and meet people…..who are not of our culture”
Bishop Dubost says he lives in a kind of condominium where all his neighbours are Muslims and there are no problems beyond the usual issues of noisy neighbours, but the difficulty is when people believe Muslims are changing the culture and way of thinking. He gives the example of Muslims not wanting men and women to go to the same swimming pool together, but he says “we have to listen to each other and try to find a way.”
Noting that it takes at least a decade for new immigrants to integrate into society, he says a key problem facing all people today is how to deal with teenagers. While French families may have a grandmother or family figure who listens to the youngsters, many immigrant families have no roots and so are especially vulnerable to the indoctrination they find on the web.
To fight against this kind of evil, Bishop Dubost says it’s vital to have a common project, to help in the education of teenagers and to bring hope, working together for the good of all society.
The Catholic-Muslim delegation included Tareq Oubrou, rector of the Bordeaux mosque, Mohammed Moussaoui, President of the Union of French Mosques, Azzedine Gaci, rector of the mosque in Villeurbanne, and Djelloul Seddiki, director of the Institute of Théologie of Paris’ Grand Mosque.