The Islamist terror attack killing 12 persons at a French journal in Paris that has published cartoons mocking Islam’s Prophet Muhammad prompted this response from the Geneva-based World Council of Churches:
The fatal attack that has taken place today in Paris against the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo is an attack on human life, human dignity and the human rights of all. The World Council of Churches utterly rejects and condemns any religious justification advanced for it. Together with all people of true faith and good will, we pray for the victims and their families, for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, for the extremist ideology that inspired this attack to be extinguished, and that justified outrage may not lead to reprisals against Muslims or fuel anti-Islamic sentiment.
And WCC chief Olav Tveit tweeted:
@OlavTveit: We all need the freedom of speech and the freedom to print and publish. Unacceptable that many journalists are killed, not only today!
@OlavTveit: Killings in Paris condemned by “all”. Can this expression of terror unite us as humanity, finding new expressions of real justice and peace?
These statements are not bad, and Tveit’s affirmation specifically of the “freedom to print and publish” is especially notable. During its darkest Cold War days of accommodating Soviet Communism and its global proxies, the WCC was often scandalously silent about the freedom to print and publish, among many other freedoms suppressed by dictatorships.
Also notable is the WCC call for this “extremist ideology” to be “extinguished.” Not understood, dialogued with, contextualized, interpreted, or accommodated. But “extinguished.” Good.
The WCC statements don’t acknowledge that the “ideology” is a brand of rabid Islamism that is particularly dangerous because it has millions of sympathizers globally. Extinguishing maybe more difficult without fully naming and understanding it.
There’s also the issue that scores of Muslim majority nations legally ban such cartoons and all other forms of criticism and mockery of Islam. It’s not extremist but mainstream Islam that insists the state prohibit blasphemy and punish blasphemers.
Tveit admirably hopes the murders and assault on press freedom will facilitate a newly united humanity. But humanity is sadly not united about essential freedoms, including liberties of speech, press and religion. It might be helpful if rather than loftily aspiring for an unlikely global unity, the WCC more tangibly focused on rallying its global Christian constituencies for human rights for all persons, including freedom of speech, press and religion.
Interestingly, the French Protestant Federation, in a statement the WCC cited, offered this conclusion:
We reiterate that the secular republic and its values, including freedom of conscience, democracy and press freedom remain for us the foundation of our life together.