In the telegram sent to the Archbishop of Strasbourg, Pope Francis condemns violence and expresses compassion "to the families affected " and to the "French people". Imam Drouiche, vice president of the imams of France: "Islam is going through a profound crisis at a global level". "My religion is hostage in the hands of ignorant and hateful people".
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Pope has expressed "sadness", "concern" and "condemnation" of the December 11 attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg. In a telegram signed by the secretary of state, Card. Pietro Parolin, addressed to the archbishop of the city, Msgr. Luc Ravel, Francis expresses his "compassion ... to the families affected and to all the people affected by this attack, assuring his prayer". While entrusting the dead "to God's mercy", he addressed "a special thought to the professionals and volunteers who care for the injured. As a sign of consolation, he implores the abundance of divine blessings on the victims, on those who assist them and on the entire French people ".
Meanwhile, the situation has returned to near normal in Strasbourg: there is a heavy police presence but shops and schools have been reopened, excluding Christmas markets.
The death toll however is rising: there are three dead and 14 wounded, of which nine are very serious. Among them is the young Italian journalist Antonio Megalizzi. Of those killed, one is Thai, one French, one Afghan.
The 29 year old author of the massacre, Cherif Chekatt, who escaped capture and is wounded, seems to have taken refuge in Germany, thanks to a network of secret supporters. Known by the anti-terrorist services, the young man has a heavy criminal past. According to police information, he was Muslim, but not radicalized. His radicalization took place place during a period in prison from 2013 to 2015.
In prison – according to Interior Secretary Laurent Nuñez - Chérif "incited religious practice in a radical form" and was engaged in profound proselytism.
According to some testimonies, confirmed by the prosecutor Remy Heitz, the young man would have shouted "Allah akhbar! (God is great!)" before killing the first victim.
Imam Hocine Drouiche, vice president of the imams of France, expresses his concern for this violent use of religion. "Once again – he has told AsiaNews - France is hit by terrorism in the name of the Islamic jihad. These sick people always find religious coverage to justify their inhumane crimes. Terrorism will not stop until all Muslims condemn it firmly and remove this cover that dirties them and endangers their future in France and Europe".
Prof. Drouiche points the finger at the indoctrination of imams in mosques.
"In general, the speech of the imams has not yet adapted to the values of the republic or human ones. If Muslims want to continue living in France and in Europe, it is necessary and urgent to awaken and free this religion from the hands of intolerant integralists. If a religion does not introduce peace, it is harmful to itself and does not deserve to be close to the divine ".
For Drouiche, "Islam is going through a profound crisis worldwide". It needs "a new wise and intelligent elite to be free and humanized. We can still save the situation in Europe, but I'm not too optimistic ".
"I am sad - he concludes - for the victims, but also because my religion is hostage in the hands of ignorant people full of hatred".