An Irish bishop has condemned the terrorist attack on two crowded mosques which left 49 people dead in New Zealand today (March 15).
Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin diocese said serious questions must be answered including in our own society by those who “unjustly blame the entire Muslim community for the extremism of some”.
The Masjid al Noor in central Christchurch was filled with worshippers when the attack happened, as was the second mosque in suburban Linwood.
Forty-one people died at the Al Noor mosque and seven others at the Linwood mosque. It is unclear where the 49th victim was killed.
Footage of the attack on one mosque was broadcast live on Facebook. New Zealand’s police have urged all mosques to shut their doors after the tragedy. The country’s police have stated that a 28-year-old man has been charged with murder and will appear in the Christchurch District Court
Police said two others are still in custody, and that they had found and neutralised a number of IEDS (improvised explosive devices). One of them is believed to be an Australian citizen.
“I am deeply saddened at this morning’s news of a savage attack on two Muslim communities at prayer in New Zealand. All of us, of whatever religious tradition, can identify with what that might mean for a congregation gathered for worship,” said Bishop Doran.
“Responsibility for these attacks clearly rests with some violent individuals. At another level, however, there are serious questions to be answered, including in our own society, by those who unjustly blame the entire Muslim community for the extremism of some,” he said.
“It is just as unacceptable to speak and write in racist or sectarian terms against Muslims as it is to speak and write in similar terms about Christians.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand has been placed in its highest security threat level, and the people in police custody held extremist views but had not been on any police watch lists.
She said the attack does “appear to have been well planned”. Children are also among the 48 injured being treated by health authorities, they range from minor to critical.
Muslim community groups worldwide are reacting to the tragedy in Christchurch, sending condolences to those affected and warning of the risk of further attacks at places of worship.
Bishop Doran added: “May the merciful God gather to himself all who have died while at their Friday prayers and console those who have been hurt. I ask that they be remembered in our Churches this weekend.”