Religious leaders around the world today swiftly condemned an attack on the Paris-based magazine Charlie Hebdo. Twelve people were killed and 10 others injured by gunmen, believed to be Islamist extremists who stormed the magazine’s offices.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued a statement describing the attack as “an act of the most extraordinary brutality and barbarity.” He added that it was “demonic in its attack on the innocent, and cowardly in its denial of the basic human right of freedom of speech.”
Welby offered support to the people of France, who, he said, would “courageously rise above the challenge of this vile attack and continue to demonstrate strength and confidence arising out of their great history.” Welby offered his prayers for the victims, the injured and their families, and for police who are involved in pursuing the gunmen.
The Vatican also issued a statement condemning the shootings as a “double act of violence, abominable because it is both an attack against people as well as against freedom of the press.”
In Geneva, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Georges Lemopoulos, described the incident as “an attack on human life, human dignity and the human rights of all,” adding that the WCC “utterly rejects and condemns any religious justification advanced for it.”
The WCC prays “together with all people of true faith and good will,” said Lemopoulos, “for the victims and their families, for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, for the extremist ideology that inspired this attack to be extinguished, and that justified outrage may not lead to reprisals against Muslims or fuel anti-Islamic sentiment.”
Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that Al-Azhar, a prestigious Sunni centre of study in Cairo, condemned the “criminal attack,” adding that “Islam denounces any violence.”
In a separate statement to AFP, Al-Azhar senior official Abbas Shoman said the institution “does not approve of using violence even if it was in response to an offence committed against sacred Muslim sentiments.”
The magazine, which satirizes political and religious leaders as well as celebrities, has been at the centre of controversy, particularly in the last decade. In 2006, it reprinted controversial cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed from a Danish newspaper. Its offices were firebombed in 2011 after it published an edition supposedly guest-edited by the Prophet.
Leaders from around the world condemned the attack, including many largely Muslim countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia Iran, Jordan, Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria and Qatar
On social media, many people around the world, including Muslims, have used hashtags such as #JeSuisCharlie, French for “I am Charlie,” and #NotInMyName to condemn the violence and express sympathy for the victims.