24 March 2016
Catholic News Service
Brussels Archbishop warns against anti-refugee sentiment in wake of attacks
The prelate said people must recognise that radicalised groups are an extremely small minority
Christians must resist the temptation to respond to the atrocities in Brussels with hatred towards Muslims or migrants, the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels has pleaded.
Josef De Kesel said that in the wake of such a tragedy there was a danger of giving in to fear and responding with hatred towards Muslims.
"We must stay faithful to our message of peace and go on promoting a discourse which appeals for acceptance, brotherhood and coexistence,” The archbishop said.
“This type of attack shows how anyone can be affected and the great danger that fear will appear everywhere. There's a temptation to react by turning against migrants and refugees, who'll become victims once again."
The archbishop was speaking to France’s Catholic La Croix newspaper a day after the bombings which left at least 34 dead at Zaventem airport and the city’s Maelbeek metro station. The Belgian government announced three days of national mourning in response to the incident, for which the Islamic State group claimed credit.
The president of the Belgian bishops’ conference thanked the international community and the Church for its messages of condolence. Pope Francis, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Archbishop Joseph E Kurtz, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, were among those who sent their consolations, which the archbishop said were “important as signs of fraternity, which let us feel how we are united in faith and in humanity”.
During his general audience at the Vatican on 23 March, Pope Francis prayed and asked people "to unite in the unanimous condemnation of these cruel abominations that have caused only death, terror and horror".
Jesuit Fr Tommy Scholtes, spokesman for the Belgian bishops, said: "We hope people will rise up and recover from these events, and life [will] return to normal in a few days".
"But for now, the airport and many train stations are closed and movement is disrupted while the security forces seek those behind these attacks, so it's hard to predict how long this will take."
Traditional Holy Week chrism Masses were cancelled in several churches, and the Belgian bishops urged Catholics to observe a period of silence for the victims as church bells were rung at midday on Wednesday.
The Belgian Muslim Executive, the main organisation representing Muslims in the country, said it was appealing "in the name of all citizens of the Muslim faith" for "unity and togetherness in a front against all forms of violence and terrorism".
It added that Belgian Muslims reaffirmed "their deep attachment to democratic values", supported efforts by the "forces of order", and backed the "public authorities charged with guaranteeing the country's security and social cohesion".
Archbishop De Kesel said people must recognise that radicalised groups "are an extremely small minority".
"This act is of such a level that it surpasses any religious question - it is only intended to spread terror, and this is why we must avoid being turned against Islam by it. Yes, Islam is there, and Muslims form part of our city. But they could do nothing about what's happened and should not be made victims a second time."
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