French imams visiting the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released Thursday a joint communique condemning the attack on Charlie Hebdo and calling for freedom of expression. “Without freedom of expression, the world is in danger,” the Jan 8. statement reads. It also asked that the media provide information which is “respectful of religions.” Signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the release comes at the end of a two-day visit to the Vatican of a delegation of French imams, accompanied by representatives of the French bishops conference. Cardinal Tauran and the imams write they are “shocked” by the attack on Charlie Hebdo, and back Pope Francis’ words, underscoring their “closeness and human and spiritual solidarity to the victims and their families.” Considering the impact of media on public opinion, the Vatican and the imams also invited “responsible media to provide information that is respectful of religions, of their followers and of their practices, thus fostering a culture of encounter.” The release also asked religious leaders to “always promote a culture of peace and hope, able to win over fear and to build bridges among men,” and stressed that interreligious dialogue “is the only path to walk together in order to dissipate prejudices.” Before the meeting at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the four imams launched the idea of a mobilization of all religions in France to testify that “no religion is violent.” Djellou Seddiki, director of the al Ghazzali Institute of the Mosque of Paris, told CNA Jan. 8 that his mosque has delivered an appeal to all the mosques,synagogues, and Catholic churches of France for this purpose. “I lived the Charlie Hebdo attack as a double violence: I am stricken as a French citizen and as a Muslim, since the Muslim community is always on the dock,” Seddiki said. Seddiki also asked for a renewed interreligious dialogue, as did Bishop Michel Dubost of Evry-Corbeil-Essonnes. The bishop accompanied the imams during their Vatican visit, as he is president of the French bishops' interreligious relations council. Bishop Dubost explained to CNA that “the state of Christian-Muslim dialogue in France varies according to the area… but we have a lot of dialogue. Probably in France, like in many other countries, it is difficult to go and see the other. We should learn that dialogue is not ‘each each’, but ‘each other.” The attack in Paris was stigmatized by Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris, who issued a statement to express “horror” at the attacks and “deep compassion for the families and friends of the victims. With the Catholics of Paris, he condemns this act of barbarism and calls for people to work ever more diligently to build relationships of peace and mutual respect in our society.” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, also sent on Pope’s behalf a telegram to Cardinal Ving-Trois, saying the Pope “joins prayer for the families” whose beloved are dead, and “condemns once again the violence that generates so much pain.”
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