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Copenhagen unites to condemn attacks

20 February 2015


Denmark in mourning: candle-lit vigil

Denmark in mourning: candle-lit vigil

CHRISTIANS have reacted with shock and horror to the shootings in Copenhagen in which a Jewish man who was guarding a synagogue and a filmmaker standing outside a debate on free speech were killed.

A 22 year-old man whom Danish police have named as their suspect, Omar El-Hussein, was shot dead by officers shortly after the attack on the synagogue last week. Five police officers were also injured in the two attacks and the final shooting, which ended in Mr El-Hussein's death.

The Archbishop of Canterbury released a statement on Monday expressing his sympathy for the victims of the attack, as well as for Christians murdered in Libya and Nigeria by Islamist extremists in recent days. "The terrible cruelty of the murders in Denmark, Libya, and Nigeria call for deep compassion for the bereaved and killed," he said. "We must all weep with those affected, and know that in the love of Christ all evil will be overcome." He called for the governments of the countries affected to be "wise and courageous".

Jewish schools and synagogues in Britain, already on high alert after the attacks on a kosher delicatessen in Paris last month, have been told to increase their security. The Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents, has sent a security briefing to Jewish institutions, and police patrols in Jewish neighbourhoods have been increased.

Mr El-Hussein, who, police said, was radicalised while in prison and was known to the security services, was believed to have been targeting Lars Vilks, who had drawn provocative cartoons of Muhammad in the past, and was speaking at the free-speech debate.

The National Council of Churches in Denmark issued a joint statement with the country's Muslim Council the day after the murders. They said that the attacks "arouse disgust both at home and abroad - and rightly so".

"As citizens we must cherish democracy and the right to gather to exchange opinions or to practise our faith without fear of losing our lives," they said. "Attacks like those that happened in Copenhagen are attacks on humanity.

"We of Christianity or Islam are, together with Jews, all children of Abraham, and ought to care for each other, help and support each other. Today we are all one family. Disagreement is expressed in conversation - not in violence and attacks."

The Anglican congregation of St Alban's, Copenhagen, began Sunday's service with a period of silence, followed by a prayer for the victims of the violence. The Chaplain, the Revd Darren McCallig, said that some of his parishioners were at the theatre that was hosting the debate earlier in the day on which the attack took place to prepare for a play that opened on Wednesday.

"So, I would say that people are pretty shook-up, but determined to not allow these dreadful events to prevent them from going about their daily lives," he said.

At Copenhagen Cathedral, which is close to the synagogue that was attacked, the congregation took flowers from the altar and added them to a tribute of flowers and candles outside the front gate of the synagogue.

In Britain, the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) said in a statement on Monday: "We stand united with the Jewish and Christian communities worldwide in supporting the Jewish community in Copenhagen . . . and wish to offer our condolences to the families and communities affected by these tragedies. We pray that religious communities across the world can live in security and peace without fear of being attacked for their religious belief or practice."

The CCJ has also launched a new campaign - "Still An Issue" - to raise awareness of anti-Semitism. They said that there had been a huge response to it from their supporters. One interfaith officer in the Church of England had suggested that Christians walk with their Jewish neighbours to the synagogue on the sabbath to show solidarity.

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