Shootings in Hanau, Germany

Updated: Hanau terrorist attack: Christians from Germany, beyond ask: “Why such evil, inexcusable violence?”

Christians from Germany and beyond have condemned the far-right terrorist attacks in Hanau in which at least nine people were killed.

– Local priest: “Community in state of shock”

Hanau priest Andreas Weber told Domradio today that his community was in a “state of shock” after a lone gunman and German citizen – named in the media as Tobias R. – went on a shooting rampage in two shisha bars in the west German city in what prosecutors are investigating as a racist terrorist attack.

At least five of the eleven dead – including the gunman and his mother – were Turkish nationals, the authorities of that country have confirmed.

Weber said his plan was to commemorate the victims in his weekday Mass today – still with his community feeling “calm and collected”, but also “affected” and fearful of more violence – and to participate this evening in an interfaith vigil in the city centre.

– Bishop of Fulda “deeply disturbed”

For his part, Bishop Michael Gerber of Fulda, the diocese in which Hanau is located, said he was “profoundly” shocked and “deeply disturbed” by the far-right, racist background to the crime gradually being unravelled by the media and prosecutors.

Gerber – who expressed his “solidarity” with the injured and the families of the victims, and also with the emergency services workers who attended the scene – instructed the parishes of Fulda to pray for the victims of the Hanau attacks this Sunday at Mass.

– Horror in neighboring dioceses of Limburg and Mainz

For their part, Fulda’s neighbouring dioceses of Limburg and Mainz also expressed their horror at the Hanau shootings.

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“For the victims of Hanau: Lord, give them eternal rest”, the diocese of Limburg prayed on its Facebook page.

Bishop Peter Kohlgraf of Mainz also expressed on his Facebook wall his grief and promised prayers for the victims and their families and friends but also for the entire population of Hanau.

– Cardinal Marx recalls nationalism and racism “cannot be justified from a Christian perspective”

Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference Cardinal Reinhard Marx, meanwhile, criticised men like perpetrator Tobias R., the self-appointed “defenders of our society and our country”.

Marx condemned the growing tendency in Germany “towards an exclusionary and aggressive nationalism and racism that cannot be justified from a Christian perspective”.

Other reactions to the Hanau attacks from German Catholic bishops included a tweet from Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne which read:

“Let us pray for the victims and their families, let us pray for an end to hatred in our society!”

“Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims, survivors and relatives of the terrible events in Hanau,” wrote for its part the Archdiocese of Berlin.

The diocese of Münster, meanwhile, first posted, with the hashtag #Hanau, a quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Behold also your neighbors, images of the most Holy Trinity and capable of enjoying the glory of Him whom all the world serves”.

The diocese later updated its post to echo words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said, in response to the Hanau attacks, that “racism is a poison”.

“Hate is a poison and this poison exists in our society and is already to blame for many crimes”, Merkel lamented.

The Münster diocese said it had “nothing to add” to those words of Merkel’s.

– Bishops in Bari for the Mediterranean ‘synod’: “This terrorist attack is deeply offensive to human dignity”

“Deep solidarity with the Turkish population” in Germany and “thoughts” for “the victims, their friends, their families and the nations they come from” are the sentiments Paolo Bizzeti, apostolic vicar of Anatolia, expressed after the Hanau shootings.

“Many questions arise”, Bizzeti told SIR after the attack from Bari, where he is participating at the ‘synod’ on the Mediterranean organised by the Italian bishops.

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“Why such stupid, evil, inexcusable violence bursts out like this? We should look for in-depth answers to such questions”, Bizzeti lamented.

“One cannot just say that the murderer was a madman. A climate of hatred, of mutual contempt, of verbal violence has been created that in the long run almost inevitably leads to such tragic consequences”.

“At this time, filled with sympathy for what has happened, we are close to our German brothers and sisters: this hideous violence, this terrorist attack is deeply offensive to human dignity”, added for his part Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, chairman of the Italian episcopal conference.

“Those who sow hatred reap the same”, the cardinal warned.

He added: “We are united, we are sympathetic, and I assure the prayers of the Italian Bishops and of the Bishops’ Conferences of all the Mediterranean countries gathered here in Bari”.

– Sant’Egidio Community, Italy: “Let’s defend the values of peace, tolerance and integration”

In the meantime, the Community of Sant’Egidio expressed its deep condolences to the families of the victims of the “very serious” attack in Hanau and expressed its solidarity with the Turkish community living in Germany.

The Community said it cannot look on hopelessly “in the face of such horrible acts of violence against a minority, which bring us back to dark moments in history”.

“Europe must defend its values of peace, tolerance and integration on which it was founded after the end of the Second World War”, Sant’Egidio said.

For this reason and with conviction, the Community launched an appeal “to stop the propaganda of racist and xenophobic hatred, which has now tragically spilled over the web and it’s not only words”.

“Hitting a community, like the Turkish one, which contributes, like many others, of different origins, to the well-being and development of Germany and Europe, only because “foreign”, in addition to being a serious crime, contributes to closing the doors to future of our continent”, Sant’Egidio lamented.

On the contrary, “it is necessary to sow words of peace, to facilitate opportunities for meeting, to encourage any initiative that leads to greater integration and to focus on the diffusion of a culture based on these values, starting from the younger generations”, the Community insisted.

(Source: Sant’Egidio)

– World Council of Churches: “Extremism and hate have no place in our world”

Meanwhile, as news broke of the attack, World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit condemned the violence and extended condolences to family and friends of those who perished.

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“Extremism and hate have no place in our world,” said Tveit.

“We must continue to act together to stamp out the extremist and racist attitudes that lead to such brutal violence.”

The attack comes amid growing concerns about far-right violence in Germany.

“We prayerfully support churches in Germany and across the world in stopping the tide of xenophobia that tears at the fabric of our one human family,” added Tveit.

(Source: World Council of Churches)

Updated 21/2/19 12PM CET: adds section on reactions from bishops in Bari

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.