Christchurch shootings: IRO, faith groups and leaders condemn attack, urge unity

At least 49 people were killed and dozens injured in what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said was a well-planned terror attack, forcing the government to place the country on its highest security threat level.
At least 49 people were killed and dozens injured in what New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said was a well-planned terror attack, forcing the government to place the country on its highest security threat level.PHOTO: GOOGLE MAPS

The Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO), faith groups and national leaders have strongly condemned the terror attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, yesterday that left at least 49 dead and dozens injured.

The IRO, which has leaders of 10 religions in its ranks, said in a statement it was "deeply saddened" by the shootings and "strongly condemns all heinous acts of terror".

"The IRO is especially alarmed that recent murderous acts have occurred at holy places of worship," it said. Last October, a gunman had attacked members of a synagogue in Pittsburgh in the United States, it noted.

"The IRO prays that local communities strengthen their bonds and interfaith understanding and categorically reject all hateful acts that seek to spark division and hate between people of different races and religions," it said.

The 10 religions represented in the IRO are the Baha'i faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism and Zoroastrianism.

Various religious groups expressed solidarity with Muslims in Singapore and reaffirmed their commitment to deepening interfaith ties. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam also posted condolences on Facebook.

The Singapore Buddhist Federation said it was "deeply saddened by the loss of so many innocent lives", adding: "We pray for the speedy recovery of the victims and restoration of peace and harmony."


The Taoist Federation (Singapore) said it would pray for the departed souls and their families, adding: "Our thoughts continue to be with them during this difficult time of loss."

The Sikh Advisory Board expressed solidarity "with our Muslim friends and the families of victims", and said the attacks were "a grim reminder for everyone around the world to not take religious and racial relations lightly". It added: "It is important that we, in Singapore, stay united and work closely, among faith groups and communities, to strengthen our bonds."

The Catholic Church in Singapore said it "stands together with the Muslim community here and all peace-loving people to reject the violence in today's attacks on two mosques in New Zealand".

"It is also important that we sow the right seeds especially among our young in all forms, teaching them tolerance, mutual respect and appreciation of other faiths," it said. "We must be watchful that we do not allow any organisation or social media or any form of entertainment to sow seeds of hatred, violence and rebellion."

Meanwhile, the Alliance of Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches of Singapore called the shootings "nothing short of barbaric and inhumane". Its chairman, Reverend Dominic Yeo, said: "In such tumultuous times, it is important for leaders of religious groups to continue to be advocates for unity and harmony, to guard and strengthen the peace we have as a nation."

Cornerstone Community Church senior pastor Yang Tuck Yoong sent his condolences in a letter to Singapore's top Muslim leader, Mufti Fatris Bakaram. "It is never acceptable to use violence against any group because of their faith and ethnicity," Reverend Yang wrote in the letter, which he shared on the church's Facebook page.

"These are uncertain times which call for people of all faiths to be more deliberate in extending care and sensitivity towards one another. We must not allow this to divide our communities."

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said in a Facebook post that "Muis and Singaporean Muslims stand together with the rest of society in condemning these atrocious acts of terror". It added: "We call for all Singaporeans to be resilient and to stay united, as we reject the extremist ideas which were behind the attacks and which must never take root in Singapore."

The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association said it "strongly condemns and denounces this heinous act of terror in a centre of worship and refuge". It added: "The killing of an innocent soul is equivalent to an attack against humanity as mentioned in our faith."

PM Lee said in a Facebook post that he was "deeply shocked" by the attacks. "This heinous act is an attempt to spread fear and hatred, and create divisions within societies. We need to respond with unity, fortitude and resilience."

DPM Teo wrote on Facebook: "We continue to face the threat of terrorism and radicalisation in Singapore. Each of us can play a part to pre-empt and prevent such attacks in Singapore by remaining vigilant and reporting any suspicious activities to the authorities promptly."

DPM Tharman said on Facebook: "Each time this happens, it is an attack on all of us, on every society that believes in diversity and tolerance. Extremism, of every stripe, has to be resisted everywhere."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2019, with the headline 'IRO, faith groups and leaders condemn attack, urge unity'. Print Edition | Subscribe