Religious leaders condemned on September 12 the killing in Benghazi, Libya of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel.
The U.S. consulate in the coastal city was attacked on September 11 — the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in the U.S. — by militants apparently armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, according to news reports.
The Benghazi attack and violent protests at the American embassy in Cairo apparently were prompted by an American-made video posted on the Internet that disparaged Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. The circumstances of the deaths of Stevens and the other personnel were not immediately clear.
In Rome, the Vatican released a statement saying that “profound respect for the beliefs, texts, outstanding figures and symbols of the various religions is an essential precondition for the peaceful coexistence of peoples. The serious consequences of unjustified offence and provocations against the sensibilities of Muslim believers are once again evident in these days, as we see the reactions they arouse, sometimes with tragic results, which in their turn nourish tension and hatred, unleashing unacceptable violence.”
Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to travel to Lebanon beginning on September 14 and the statement from the Vatican press office said he will be carrying a “message of dialogue and respect for all believers of different religions.”
In the U.S., the National Council of Churches (NCC) said its member communions denounce the violence as “a travesty and mindless rejection of the historic precepts of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, which are based on God’s love and a peaceful regard for all God’s people.”
“Our hearts and prayers go out for the families and loved ones of Mr. Stevens and the other victims of the attack,” said the statement from NCC President Kathryn Lohre and Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary for interfaith relations.
Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America, said that the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) “unequivocally condemns” the killings and the Cairo violence.
Referring to the video, Magid said that while it is “hateful and bigoted, this could never be an excuse to commit any acts of violence whatsoever.”
He added that “no one should fall into the trap of those who wish to incite anger. The Prophet (peace be upon him) should be our example in everything we do, and even though he was attacked and insulted many times throughout his life, he always reacted with compassion and forgiveness, never with revenge or violence.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, spoke at the same Washington, D.C. news conference as Magid.
Saperstein said that “the losses of life in this manner are an affront to the values of humanity and tolerance that are at the core of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” Condemning the video that apparently provoked the attacks, he said it was “clearly crafted to provoke, to offend, and to evoke outrage. The denigration of religion and religious figures and the intentional framing of religious texts and tenets in this manner must likewise be condemned.”
Such a creation, he said, does not “reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of Americans and people of faith. It is, purely and simply, a creation of those on the fringes of American society whether they are Christians or Jews or Muslims. I appeal to the religious leaders and to the media in the Muslim world to make that message clear and help bring an end to the violence before further tragedy occurs.”