The acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Georges Lemopoulos, has called for prayer and acts of common caring following a murderous attack on holiday makers in the southern French city of Nice.
According to the Agence France Presse (AFP) news agency, approximately 84 people were killed and dozens more injured in the Mediterranean resort city as a heavy van systematically ploughed through crowds of revellers who had gathered to watch a fireworks display on the national holiday honouring the liberation of prisoners held in the Bastille prison in Paris on 14 July 1789.
The driver is reported to have been shot and killed by police.
French president François Hollande, in a televised speech to the nation at 3:30 in the morning of 15 July, recognized the incident as a probable act of terror and has extended the national state of emergency, in force since January 2015, for another three months.
Speaking for the WCC, Lemopoulos stated, “We are praying for the victims and their families, and for all the people of France, as are many Christians and our partners in dialogue from other world religions.”
He continued, “Bastille Day is the great festival of liberty and mutual support in France. We condemn this assault on innocent human beings, and also on the values of justice and community. Those celebrating national unity were targeted deliberately.”
“At this time the motive behind the injustice is being investigated,” he added. “Whatever the outcome of that inquiry, it is essential that the spirit of unity be upheld and that no one minority community may be scapegoated for the crimes of a few.”
“People of good will must respond, and we in the WCC pledge to take positive, direct action as part a common response to this brutal attack,” said Lemopoulos. “This is a time for prayer, but also for action by faith organizations in partnership with state and secular agencies.”