CNA Staff, May 1, 2020 / 09:00 am (CNA).- In a statement marking the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the Vatican has condemned an increasing spate of attacks on churches, synagogues and mosques around the world.
Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, M.C.C.J., president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said in the council’s “message for the month of Ramadan” on May 1 that “the context of recent attacks on churches, mosques and synagogues by wicked persons who seem to perceive the places of worship as a privileged target for their blind and senseless violence.”
He cited the 2019 joint statement of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on human fraternity, which stated that such attacks are “a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of international law”.
Religious freedom advocates, including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) have drawn attention to an increasing number of attacks on churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship in recent years.
USCIRF released a fact-sheet in October of 2019 that called on states to protect places of worship, emphasizing their “protected status during armed conflict” and saying that “an intentional attack” on a church, synagogue, or mosque “may be considered a war crime.”
The commission’s 2020 annual report noted an increase in attacks on houses of worship around the world in 2019.
In 2019, Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka targeted three churches as well as hotel resorts, killing more than 250 people. Shootings at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Muslim Friday prayer, killed 51 people in March, 2019. Shootings at synagogues in the U.S. in October of 2018 and again in April of 2019 killed 12, and roughly 80 gravestones at a Jewish cemetery in France were vandalized with Nazi and anti-Semitic symbols.
Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar of fasting, prayer, and acts of service; it began on April 23.
“The month of Ramadan is so central in your religion and therefore dear to you at personal, familial and social levels. lt is a time for spiritual healing and growth, of sharing with the poor, of strengthening bonds with relatives and friends,” the Vatican’s statement read.
After extending good wishes, the Vatican stated that “[t]he thoughts we like to share with you this year following our cherished tradition are about the protection of the places of worship.”
Churches, synagogues, and mosques have historically been places of hospitality, the statement noted.
“While appreciating the efforts done by the international community at different levels for the protection of the places of worship worldwide, it is our hope that our mutual esteem, respect and cooperation will help strengthen the bonds of sincere friendship, and enable our communities to safeguard the places of worship to assure for coming generations the fundamental freedom to profess one’s own beliefs,” the statement said.