World Council of Churches joins UN in condemning Paris slayings, urges restraint

(Photo: REUTERS / Gonzalo Fuentes)French soldier patrols near the Eiffel Tower in Paris as part of the highest level of "Vigipirate" security plan after a shooting at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo January 7, 2015. Gunmen stormed the Paris offices of the weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, renowned for lampooning radical Islam, killing at least 12 people, including two police officers in the worst militant attack on French soil in recent decades. The French President headed to the scene of the attack and the government said it was raising France's security level to the highest notch.

GENEVA - The World Council of Churches has joined top United Nations officials in denouncing the terror attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people and left at least 10 wounded.

The churches grouping and the U.N. Organizations urged people not to fall into the hands of the attackers and take revenge into their own hands with attacks on minority communities .

Hooded, armed gunmen attacked the offices of the publication in a Paris suburb before firing automatic weapons in a scene police described as "carnage," news agencies reported.

The attackers were heard shouting "Allahu Akbar," an Arabic phrase that means "God is great" during their January 7 attack.

French Europe 1 radio reported that one of the attackers was heard shouting that the "Prophet was avenged."

The acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches Georges Lemopoulos said, "The fatal attack that has taken place today in Paris against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is an attack on human life, human dignity and the human rights of all.

"The World Council of Churches utterly rejects and condemns any religious justification advanced for it." the WCC said in a statement released from Geneva.

"Together with all people of true faith and good will, we pray 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."

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said, "I utterly condemn the appalling and ruthless attack on media workers and police officers in Paris earlier today.


"Freedom of expression and opinion are a cornerstone for any democratic society. Those trying to divide communities on grounds of religion, ethnicity or any other reason must not be allowed to succeed. The rule of law must unite us in standing firm against such terrorist acts."

Zeid noted, "If this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists whose clear aim is to divide religions and societies.

"With xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments already on the rise in Europe, I am very concerned that this awful, calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts."

Three years ago, the offices of Charlie Hebdo's offices suffered an arson attack after it published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad on its cover.

Salman Rushdie, the author who was the subject of a fatwa calling for his assassination issued by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, declared he "stands with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire."

Rushdie said in the Daily Telegraph, "I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.

"'Respect for religion' has become a code phrase meaning 'fear of religion.'

"Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect."

The Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, said she is horrified by an attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo.

"This attack is an attack against the media and against freedom of expression," said Bokova, who heads the UN agency mandated to defend freedom of expression and press freedom, in a press statement.

"UNESCO is more determined than ever to protect the free and independent press," she said. "The international community cannot let extremists sow terror and prevent the free flow of opinions and ideas."

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