French church attack: Faith leaders call for more security

Representatives from France's major faith groups were at the Elysee Palace meeting. PHOTO: EPA

FRENCH religious leaders have called for more security at places of worship following the murder of an elderly priest in Normandy on Tuesday.
Representatives of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist faiths spoke after meeting President Hollande.
Father Jacques Hamel was killed while conducting morning mass in his church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, a suburb of Rouen.
The killing came 12 days after the attack in Nice in which 84 people died, BBC said.
Only one of the two attackers has been named. Adel Kermiche, 19, had twice tried to reach Syria to fight with the self-styled Islamic State group (IS).
Muslim leader Dalil Boubakeur, rector of Paris’s Grand Mosque, said the leaders “deeply desire that our places of worship are the subject of greater [security] focus, a sustained focus”, as even “the most humble place of worship” can be subject to an attack.
Mr Boubakeur expressed “profound sorrow” on behalf of French Muslims at the attack, which he described as a “blasphemous sacrilege.”
The Archbishop of Paris, Andre Vingt-Trois, praised the harmonious relations between France’s religions.
“We must not let ourselves get pulled in to Daesh’s political games,” he said, using a pejorative term for IS, saying it wanted “to set children of the same family against each other.”
President Francois Hollande has also been chairing meetings of his security and defence council and his cabinet.
On Tuesday Mr Hollande appealed for “unity” as he warned that the war against terrorism “will be long”.
“Our democracy is the target, and it will be our shield. Let us stand together. We will win this war,” he said.
According to Le Monde (in French), the prosecutor’s office had asked for Kermiche to remain in detention but this was overruled by a judge. She ordered that he be released to house arrest with an electronic tag ensuring that he remained at home, except on weekday mornings.
This meant that on Tuesday morning he was free to leave the family home and head to the church.
He and his fellow attacker slit Father Hamel’s throat before being killed by police.
One of four people taken hostage suffered severe knife wounds, prosecutor Francois Molins said.