Muslims attend Catholic mass in show of solidarity

Photo: ČTK

Members of the Czech Muslim Community gathered outside a Catholic church in Prague on Wednesday to denounce violence and express solidarity with the victims of terrorist attacks, most particularly French priest Jacques Hamel murdered in France by Islamic militants. Many carried banners saying “terrorism is not a religion” and some silently attended mass at the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord in a show of respect for Christians.

The Church of the Most Sacred Heart, photo: Filip Jandourek, Czech Radio
The Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord on Prague’s Jiří z Poděbrad square was surrounded by reporters on Wednesday as close to a hundred Muslims gathered outside the church to take a public stand against terrorism and denounce the murder of innocent people worldwide. Romana Červenková from the Alfirdaus Centre, who organized the gathering, told Radio Prague it was important for Czech Muslims to be heard.

“The number of terrorist attacks in Europe has been growing and we know that Czechs fear Muslims as a result. We have condemned every single terrorist attack that took place, but written statements never seem to make much of an impact. And the brutality of the latest attack against French priest Jacques Hamel was such that we realized it was time to show ourselves and raise our voice against what is happening. To say we respect other religions and we consider a church a sacred place where people should be able to pray without being threatened.”

Photo: ČTK
The Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord was packed for the evening service as Catholic priest Petr Benes welcomed both the regular church-goers and the Muslims present, addressing them as “our Muslim friends”. In his sermon he said Christians must not abandon their values such as love, understanding tolerance and acceptance. Although the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord welcomed the Muslim Community’s decision to denounce violence and make this public stand of solidarity with Christians, other churches whom the community approached were less charitable. Several reportedly refused to allow Muslims to attend mass on the grounds that the parish would not like it. Romana Červenková says she understands people’s fears.

Romana Červenková, photo: ČTK
“When you switch on the television these days all you hear are reports of terrorist attacks by Islamic radicals. And when you are exposed to such news, in such a measure, for so long, then you will inevitably be wary of all Muslims – because all you hear about them is that they kill people.”

Following the mass at the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord, some 200 people, both Christians and Muslims joined hands to form a human chain around the church in defiance of protesters who stood nearby with banners reading “We are at home here”. Romana Červenková says she considers Wednesday’s event a step in the right direction and is planning others in the fall which will throw a new and different light on the life and values of Muslims in the Czech Republic.