After attacks in Nigeria, Syria, Somalia and United States, world churches' leader calls for end to violence
Christmas week is expected to be a time of peace, but this year it was not with attacks taking place in Nigeria, Somalia - where at least 79 people were killed - Syria and the United States during the Christian celebrations and the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.
The World Council of Churches condemned attacks across the world that have occurred in a violent week during which many have lost their lives or lost their loved ones
WCC general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said, "Violent attacks on innocent human beings in the name of any religion cannot be accepted, and should not be accepted by any religion."
On Dec. 26, the Islamic State sub-group in Nigeria released a video claiming to show the killing of 11 Christians.
The terrorist group declared that the executions were an act of revenge for the recent killing of their high-ranked leaders.
"In the strongest possible terms, we denounce these attempts to divide the Nigerian people by turning Christians against Muslims", Tveit said.
"We must promote respect for human dignity in all circumstances, as well as for respect and diversity, to counter the hate and intolerance that are behind such acts of extreme violence," noted Tveit.
Then with the latest escalation of violence in northwest Syria Dec. 12-26, civilians in Idlib governorate have again suffered from the devastating consequences of violence.
More than 235,000 people have fled the Idlib region over the past two weeks in the ninth year of the Syrian war, the UN reported.
"The Syrian people have already been subjected to too much conflict, and far too much bloodshed, destruction and displacement", said Tveit.
"The churches of the world demand an end to it – an end to the suffering of the people. Enough fighting, chaos and death. It is time for peace, for respite, for dialogue, and for justice for the victims of atrocities perpetrated through these catastrophic years of violence."
The bloodiest attack came in Somalia when a truck filled with explosives blew up at a busy intersection of the country's capital Mogadishu on Dec. 28, adding more suffering to a country plagued by an enduring strain of violent extremism.
At least 80 people have died and 149 were injured. Many of them university students. No group has claimed responsibility for the bomb attack yet.
"Across the world, people who were living their daily lives - standing in line for shopping food, innocently walking in places that should be safe, attending worship - have been lost to their families and their communities, "said Tveit.
"We condemn these senseless acts of violence. Let us strengthen our resolution to pursue peace and justice for all, dignity for all, the freedom to lead full lives for all."
Pope Francis prayed for the victims and families of a car bomb that killed over 90 people in Somalia.
After reciting the customary Sunday Angelus, the Pope prayed for the victims of the Mogadishu car bomb.
"Let us pray to the Lord for the victims of yesterday's horrible terrorist attack in Mogadishu in Somalia, where the explosion of a car bomb killed more than 70 people", he said.
No group has claimed responsibility for the Mogadsihu slaugher, but the Al-Shabaab Islamist militants allied to al-Qaida often carries out bomb attacks in the city..
ATTACK ON NEW YORK RABBI'S HOME
The WCC also condemned the Dec. 28 attack on a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi´s home north of New York City, in which the attacker stabbed and wounded five people.
Several state and local officials have described the location of stabbing as a synagogue.
The attack appeared to be the latest in a string targeting Jews in the region, including a massacre at a kosher grocery in New Jersey earlier this month.
Tveit said "We are condemning this attack and the anti-Semitic, racist and extremist ideology that might motivate this attack. We also emphasize the importance of proper security for all, particularly minorities, in our countries.
"As brothers and sisters in faith, and as fellow humans, we decry this violence against worshippers peacefully observing their most holy period." Tveit added
Tveit encouraged the WCC churches, representing more than 500 million Christians, to hold those affected and killed in prayer and called for ecumenical solidarity in the face of such attacks of terror and violence.