The United Church of Canada strongly condemns the horrific attacks by a suspected White nationalist on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15, 2019. At least 49 people were killed and another 48 injured in this act of terrorism while Muslim worshippers were at Friday prayers.

The people of the United Church are deeply saddened and many are weeping alongside the families and friends of the people who were killed and injured. In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes: “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:15–16a). People in the United Church are joining with people around the world in mourning the lives of the innocent victims lost in this abhorrent attack.

The United Church recognizes Islam as a religion of peace, mercy, justice, and compassion and has affirmed that the church wants to journey towards reconciliation, understanding, and cooperation with our Muslim neighbours. The church is deeply committed to working with Muslims and others for peace and justice for all humanity and to seeking ways to build right relationships among us.

The church joins with people around the world in condemning the attacks, including Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), full communion partner the United Church of Christ, and the World Council of Churches. The United Church also laments the fact that, in the wake of these attacks, the NCCM has had to issue a safety advisory for worshippers at mosques to ensure that Muslim communities feel secure in the days and weeks ahead. The NCCM notes that “the rise of Islamophobia is of urgent concern and the attacks in New Zealand reinforce the deadly consequences of unchecked racism and hatred.”

It has been reported that this heinous attack in New Zealand was perpetuated by a White nationalist with an anti-immigrant manifesto; the hate, racism, and xenophobia underpinning this attack does not exist in isolation. According to recent data on hate crimes directed towards racial, religious, and other minority groups, crimes against Muslims in Canada were up 151 per cent in 2017. Black and Jewish communities also had disturbing increases of 50 per cent and 63 per cent, respectively. The tragic attack in New Zealand claimed the lives of many racialized immigrants. The United Church therefore re-affirms its commitment to racial justice, engaging in interfaith dialogue, and speaking out against violence and discrimination rooted in racial superiority, including Islamophobia. The church’s anti-racism policy (search “That All May Be One” on United Church Commons) declares that “we believe that we are all equal before God.”

People of faith are invited to join in prayer in responses to these terrible attacks. United Church Moderator Richard Bott and the Canadian Council of Churches are among those who have offered prayers for Muslim communities. People are also invited to engage in acts of solidarity with Muslim neighbours, and participate in community vigils to honour the lives of those affected.

We pray for peace among people; God, hear our prayer.