The World Council of Churches is horrified by the spate of violent extremist attacks around the world in recent hours – in western Ethiopia, in Kabul and in Vienna. The unbearable toll of lives lost, and the impact on the affected communities and nations, must engage the concern, solidarity and action of the international community and all people of goodwill, to stem the bloodshed and to confront the brutal ideologies behind such atrocities.

In an attack on ethnic Amharas in western Ethiopia on Sunday 1 November, 54 people are reported to have been killed, in a tragic escalation of the ethnic violence which threatens the very fabric of the Ethiopian nation. Ethiopian Orthodox communities have also been targeted in previous attacks, with churches burned and many members of the church communities killed since mid 2018. WCC denounces these attacks, and the unconscionable instrumentalization of ethnic and religious differences for political purposes which feeds such attacks and atrocities.

In Kabul on Monday 2 November, gunmen attacked Afghanistan’s largest university, killing at least 19 people and wounding more than a dozen, in the second deadly assault on an educational institution in the capital resulting in mass casualties in just over a week. An Afghan branch of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ group is reported to have claimed responsibility.

And now in an apparent religiously-inspired extremist attack in Vienna – which began outside the Seitenstettengasse Synagogue, the main house of prayer for the Viennese Jewish community and the target of past violent attacks – four people are reported killed and another 17 wounded. Gunmen opened fire in six different locations in the city centre yesterday evening, and at least one suspect is still at large.

Merciful God, bring this violence and bloodshed to an end. Heal the sickness in the hearts and minds of the people that inflict such pain, suffering and death on other people because of their ethnic or religious identity, or indiscriminately. Bring peace to a world increasingly riven by divisions and hatreds. Introduce compassion and wisdom to those leaders who so fearfully lack these qualities and who incite hatred and violence. Comfort all those who mourn the precious lives lost, and encourage and protect the communities now living in fear.

The WCC reiterates its sadly oft-repeated categorical denunciation of all such attacks, and its rejection of any attempts to justify such violence on religious grounds. We call both political and religious leaders to a renewed spirit of cooperation in searching for effective responses and an end to the bloodshed and division.