Wednesday’s horrific terrorist attack in Paris stirred the souls of people around the world. Within the Jewish world, the World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) was among the first organizations to condemn the killings. The WUPJ leadership published a statement that “expresses our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the victims murdered on Wednesday January 7, when hooded gunmen stormed the Paris offices of a weekly satirical magazine, killing at least 12 people, including two police officers, in the worst terrorist attack on French soil in decades.
The WUPJ condemned this act of exceptional barbarism. Rabbi Daniel H. Freelander, President of WUPJ stated: ‘We join our French congregations in expressing our horror at the targeted killings in Paris Wednesday morning. This abhorrent act raises the concern of all who value free speech and religious diversity. Our future ultimately depends on the determination of governments to defend and protect pluralism, and show no tolerance for the descent into this kind of violence.’ As an organization founded on and guided by a fervent belief in cultural pluralism and political liberalism, we consider any attack on any symbol of free expression anywhere to be an assault on the pillars of Progressive Judaism: justice and equality, democracy and peace, personal fulfillment and collective obligations.”
Certainly we can find merit in the statement of the WUPJ condemning the atrocity that took place in Paris on January 7. However, in the wake of this tragedy, there is a need to address those who would wish to link the perpetrators of this horror as reflecting the beliefs and practices of Islam. Yesterday, at our regularly scheduled meeting of the Tri-City Interfaith Council, Reverend Jeremy Nickel of Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation initiated a discussion that produced the following statement:
“We, the members of the Tri-City Interfaith Council, express our horror at the senseless killings at the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France, on January 7, 2015. We stand in solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters locally and across the globe who repudiate these acts. We strongly reject the notion that these actions were taken by anyone following the true intention of the Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) or the faith tradition of Islam.”
The Tri-City Interfaith Council aspires to be a beacon of acceptance of and appreciation for people of all faiths and practices. To this end, our statement of January 8 concludes with these words: “We believe that as we share our stories with each other, we grow in our ability to see our similarities more than our differences. In that light, we extend a welcome to all in the community to join our second annual Interfaith Harmony Day, which will be held in Fremont at the Veterans Hall in Niles (37154 2nd St) on Saturday, February 7, 1-4 PM. More info can be found at our website www.tcicouncil.org. Peace and blessings to all.”