by ROWENA OREJANA
About 80 Wellington Jews, Christians, and Muslims held a prayer vigil at the Kilbirnie mosque on January 11 to denounce the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris.
The group said the attack on the French satirical newspaper is an attack on the basic freedoms that enable us to practise our religions and coexist in a democratic society.
Wellington Council of Christians and Jews Jewish co-chair Dave Moskovitz said there was a good mix of people from different faiths.
“It was a great event, there was a great feeling of brotherhood and camaraderie and mutual support. The leaders talked afterwards and we all agreed that we achieved our objectives in the end in bringing the three communities together,” he said.
Palmerston North Bishop Charles Drennan hailed the interfaith efforts.
“Vive our national and diocesan interreligious faith groups and commissions whodrawing on the treasure of our social teaching, endeavour to help build authentic unity in our multicultural land,” he said.
Bishop Drennan, while condemning the act, said freedom of speech is not an absolute right.
“It sits within something beyond itself, something deeper, something truly unifying. What is that? The principle of the common good, which stands at the heart of Catholic social teaching,” he said.
Sr Catherine Jones, SMSM, the chair of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Committee for Interfaith Relations, reiterated her commitment to building respectful interfaith relations.
“While praying in solidarity with all those who have died in these massacres, I am also committed to doing all I can to ensure that the open and respectful interfaith relations we enjoy in ourcountry continue, even through this setback,” she said.
Sr Catherine added it is a matter of justice that Muslims are not stereotyped with those images from Paris.
“The prayer vigil organised by the Wellington Council of Christians and Jews, hosted by the Muslim community at the Kilbirnie mosque, is witness to that,” she said.
In the meantime, the Interim Committee of the Shia Muslim-Christian Council of Aotearoa New Zealand released a statement condemning recent violent acts in Sydney, Paris and Nigeria.
The Auckland-based council described itself as “a group of believers committed to the development of mutual understanding, peacemaking and cooperation for the betterment of our
respective communities and society as a whole”.
“These, and other similar actions, are a complete and blasphemous denial of the principles of Islam,” the statement said. The group pointed out none of those religions invites its followers to commit acts of violence.
“In upholding ‘free speech’ as a basic human right, we affirm that rights are accompanied by responsibilities; and in the case of freedom of speech, there is the responsibility of restraint, in order to safeguard the dignity of those whose beliefs and values differ from our own,” the statement said.
The members of the group collectively committed themselves to pray for, and work towards, a global society without violence and extremism.