Czech Republic: Muslims attend Catholic mass in Prague, condemn violence
Approximately 80 Muslims from abroad and from the Czech Republic assembled in front of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart yesterday evening in the Prague neighborhood of Vinohrady in order to protest against the growing incidence of violence in Europe. To great media attention, some of them symbolically attended mass at the church, which was absolutely full.
After the mass, approximately 400 people, including Muslims, condemned terrorism in front of the church on Jiřího z Poděbrad Square. At the end of the demonstration they formed a human chain.
Muslim representatives expressed their compassion for and solidarity with the victims of terrorism, especially the French priest Jacques Hamel, who was recently murdered by Islamist assailants. They called for an end to all forms of violence and said Islam emphasizes the sacred nature of human life.
The Muslim representatives also told those assembled that the crimes of the so-called Islamic State are being turned against Muslims worldwide. Some of the Muslims held banners reading "Terrorism is not a religion" or "All under one roof" with a picture of a map of the Czech Republic.
"I, as a Christian, and they, as Muslims, have a great deal in common in many respects, and today this is being demonstrated. There must be love for others, love for those close to us, and we must find the way forward together. I am very glad this mass took place. There were women wearing head scarves seated behind me. I had a warm feeling, I felt safe. It has restored my faith in the future, not everything is negative," 20-year-old student Jakub from Prague 6 told the Czech News Agency.
The convener of the event, Romana Červenková of the Al Firdaus Center, told the Czech News Agency that Muslims in the Czech Republic are victimized through verbal abuse. Červenková also said she believes Czech people do not follow media from abroad in order find out what the situation in Europe actually is.
"I understand Czechs are afraid and that's why we're here, to demonstrate that we condemn terrorism and for that message to be heard," she said. Vicar Petr Beneš of the Catholic parish, who served the mass, emphasized at the demonstration afterward that as long as people build fortresses they will always be against each other.
"The identity that many people so vocally say they are doing their best to preserve is being lost because we are not living in God's love - that should be clear to anybody who lives with others and reflects on this," Beneš said. Christianity cannot, in his view, abandon its own values of acceptance, love, tolerance and understanding.
Beneš also reminded those present of the words of Pope Francis on this issue. Several opponents of Islam also came to the assembly wearing badges of the "Bloc against Islam" on their coats and shouting "This is our home".
During the mass the opponents of Islam held emotional discussions in front of the church with the supporters of the assembly and municipal police had to negotiate with one of the opponents. The Muslims had originally wanted to hold their assembly at the Church of Saint Ludmila on náměstí Míru ("Square of Peace") but that parish did not give permission.
The parish referred those seeking permission to an official request that was sent to the archdiocese. The response from the archdiocese was that while Catholic churches are open to all people of good will, common worship of Christians and Muslims is not possible from a theological perspective.
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