Yom Kippur attack in German synagogue condemned by World Council of Churches

(UN Photo/Rick Bajornas)United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres speaks at an interfaith tribute at the Park East Synagogue in New York City, in solidarity with those killed and wounded in the massacre in Pittsburgh on 31 October 2018.

The World Council of Churches has condemned an attack by a gunman on a synagogue in the German city of Halle as dozens of worshippers observed Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of fasting and atonement that follows Rosh Hoshanah, the Jewish new year.

World Council of Churches general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit said on Oct. 9 that "the assault seems to be a brazen display of racist anti-Semitism that, sadly, is on the rise in Europe and elsewhere."

"We are condemning this attack and the white, anti-Semitic, racist and extremists ideology that might motivate this attack. We also emphasize the importance of proper security for all, particularly minorities, in our countries," said Tveit.

News agencies reported that at least two people were shot dead on a street in the eastern German city of Halle Oct. 9, police said, noting that a suspect was in custody.

Witnesses said that a synagogue was among the gunmen's targets as Jews marked the holy day of Yom Kippur.

German anti-terrorism prosecutors took over the probe.

The attack is reported to have killed two persons outside the synagogue and injured two others, and a suspect is in custody. The gunman posted images of the military-style attack and anti-Semitic language even as the incident was still underway.

"As brothers and sisters in faith, and as fellow humans, we decry this violence against worshippers peacefully observing their most holy day," said Tveit.


"We grieve for the victims of the attack, and we lift up the Jewish community in prayer. Needless to say, this kind of racist violence and hate are repugnant to us, fortifying our resolve to work with Jews and Christians everywhere to oppose hatred and instill respect for all people."

Tveit noted, "We offer our heartfelt prayers for the victims and condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in this appalling act of violence."

He added, "As a global fellowship of churches, we stand in solidarity with those in Halle who have been attacked in this vicious way while celebrating the holiest day of the year in their faith journey."

The New York Times reported that the heavily armed assailant with a live-streaming head camera had tried unsuccessfully to invade a synagogue during the Yom Kippur services in Halle before killing two people outside and wounding the two others.

The newspaper said it was "one of the most brazen in a string of recent attacks aimed at Jews in Germany, and bore a striking resemblance to the rampage by a far-right extremist on two mosques in New Zealand more than six months ago, in which he broadcast his killings live on social media. Fifty-one people died in that attack.

A total of 51 congregants, including 10 young American visitors, were in the synagogue in Halle during the assault, committed on the holiest day in Judaism, but officials said none were believed hurt.

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