Following a brutal attack claiming the life of a priest in France, Muslims across that nation came out en masse to attend services in Catholic churches.
The priest was murdered by jihadists on Tuesday, July 26, in a small town in Normandy, France. Although France has seen greater loss through other attacks, for instance the attack in Nice that claimed 84 lives, this attack was particularly distressing because it targeted the church.
Following the attack on Tuesday, the French Muslim council CFCM asked for Muslims across the nation to show their “solidarity and compassion” toward the Catholic church by showing up for mass on Sunday. The BBC quoted the head of CFCM as saying, “We are all Catholics of France.”
One hundred Muslims joined about 2,000 people who piled into the cathedral of Rouen, near the town where the priest was killed. In fact, the president of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray Mosque (located in the same town where the priest was killed) showed up to the mass as well. Across the nation of France there were reports of Muslims attending services, including in Notre Dame.
The gesture even crossed national lines. In Italy, three imams sat in the front row at Santa Maria Trastevere church in Rome for Sunday mass.
Muslims in France are eager to show (by their actions) their neighbors that Islam is not a religion of violence, but that the jihadists represent an outlying sect of the religion. The Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, said Muslims’ attendance at mass is “an important gesture of fraternity. They’ve told us, and I think they’re sincere, that it’s not Islam which killed Jacques Hamel.”
Furthermore, as a Yahoo News article points out, Catholic priests are eager to welcome Muslims into their churches and thereby show solidarity toward their neighbors. “It’s an occasion to show (Muslims) that we do not confuse Islam with Islamism, Muslim with jihadist,” said Reverend Jean Rouet.