CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 06:19 pm (CNA).- The president of the French bishops’ council for Catholic education expressed solidarity with the country’s school community following the beheading of a Parish school teacher in an Islamist terror attack last week.
“In these dark hours, Catholic education feels deeply united in solidarity with the whole school community…and first of all with the teachers,” Archbishop Laurent Ulrich of Lille said in an Oct. 19 statement. The statement was co-signed by Philippe Delorme, Secretary General of Catholic Education.
“Because it is our raison d’être, we will defend the school (and school community) so that ignorance is fought everywhere,” Ulrich said.
“Ignorance builds fear,” he added.
Ulrich wrote in response to the beheading of Samuel Paty, who was killed Oct. 16 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb of Paris. Student Abdoullakh Abouyedovich Anzorov reportedly attacked Paty, a history and geography teacher, after Paty showed his class a cartoon depicting Muhammad. According to the BBC, Paty had reportedly told Muslim students that they could leave the room before showing the cartoon if they thought they would find it offensive.
Eyewitnesses said that Anzorov shouted “Allahu akbar” — Arabic for “God is great” — as he murdered Paty near the middle school where he taught. The 18-year-old Russian national of Chechen origin was shot dead by police shortly after the murder. “We will not back down on our confidence in the possibility of fraternity between people…of dialogue between social groups, between religions and cultures, between knowledge, between faith and reason,” Ulrich stated. “And as Catholics, we repeat here to Muslims in our country that we will always be in dialogue with them, without confusing them with fanatics, extremists and terrorists,” the bishop added. “We want to assure the members of the (Catholic education community) that the mission they carry is essential, that it is not in vain, that its fruits of humanization will outweigh the evil…you have our admiration, our friendship, our respect and our prayer,” the bishop said.
To all within the education community, “we reaffirm our firm and persevering determination to work for an educational fraternity,” he added.
Paty was remembered in a French ceremony Oct. 21, during which he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur, France’s highest national honor.
Numerous Catholic leaders have condemned the attack and mourned the violent murder in the days following Paty’s killing.
Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen was joined by representatives of Muslim, Jewish, and other Christian communities Oct. 18 at the memorial near the church of Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where Fr. Jacques Hamel was murdered by Islamists in 2016.
Archbishop Jean-Paul James of Bordeaux co-signed an interreligious statement with Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Protestant and Orthodox leaders of Gironde, France, condemning the murder and calling for renewed, peaceful solidarity among religious believers. “May his family, loved ones, friends, students and colleagues find here the expression of our deep compassion. We are all upset by this barbaric act, and particularly in solidarity with all the teachers deeply affected by this heinous crime,” the religious leaders stated Oct. 21. “Human life is sacred. We reaffirm that any attack against (life) in the name of God is unjustifiable. Together…we want to reiterate forcefully that no one can attempt the life of another, by claiming their religious or ideological convictions whatever they may be.” “In this difficult time, against violence and hatred, we want to firmly keep our commitment to be peacemakers,” they added. “The best bulwark against barbarism, fanaticism and terrorism remain fraternity, education and unity.” The leaders invited all believers to continue to pray and work for a peaceful society.