World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder on Tuesday issued a strong condemnation of the terrorist attack at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, in France, calling it “a monstrous and evil act of murder committed against innocent people inside a house of worship.”
Lauder conveyed his and the Jewish people’s condolences to the people of France, to Pope Francis and the leaders of the Catholic Church in France. An elderly priest was killed in the attack.
Lauder said: “This morning, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims of yet another atrocious attack, and with the good people of France who sadly have become so familiar with the reality of terrorism in recent months.
“Alas, there is no respite. Every day, these terrorists make it abundantly clear to the world that nothing is sacred to them, that they will not shy away from any execrable affront to the most basic values of our society.
“Let’s be clear: this is not a war between religions, but between good and evil. We must stand as one in the face of this great threat. We must not be intimidated, but cherish our freedom, including the freedom to worship. We must speak out and not be silent. We must defend each other, and we must look after one another: one religious community after the other, one country after the other. This evil scourge won’t be defeated unless we are united in our resolve to defeat it,” said the WJC president.
According to reports, an 86-year Catholic priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, died after his throat was slit this morning in the church. Together with two nuns and two parishioners, Fr. Hamel had been being taken hostage by two men who reportedly shouted ‘Daesh’ (a synonym for the Islamist terror group ISIS) when storming into the church. One other victim was in a life-threatening condition, and the three other also suffered injuries.
Police stormed the church at around 11 a.m. local time on Tuesday and killed the two attackers. French President François Hollande said in a statement that ISIS was behind the attack.
Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray lies on the outskirts of Rouen, the capital of the Normandy region in north-western France. It was the first such attack committed by jihadist terrorist against a church in Europe.