PARIS – Hundreds of Muslims in Trebes, Southern France, joined their Christian neighbors during the Saint-Etienne church Sunday’s mass to pay their respects to the victims of the deadly shooting that shook France two days ago.
“It’s important to be here. I knew the victims,” Sarah, 23, a former employee of the Super U supermarket where the attacker, Radouane Lakdim, shot dead two people on Friday, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
Dressed in abaya and a veil, she expressed her determination to attend the service despite the fear of being shunned.
“God is for everyone. We’re all human beings. His House is open to everyone,” said Rabiha, a Muslim from the nearby village of Carcassonne, where, before laying siege to the supermarket, Lakdim hijacked a car, killing the passenger and leaving the Portuguese driver in a critical condition.
Solange, an 81-year-old villager, expressed similar sentiments.
“It takes a very deep faith to accept all this, this fighting between religions. It is the same god we worship, Muslims, Christians and Jews.”
Official representatives of the Muslim community were among the congregation inside the church.
“Your presence tell us that the creators of hatred will not win,” said the Bishop of Carcassonne and Narbonne, Monsignor Alain Planet, during the service.
The Muslim community, and even Islam itself, have been “stabbed by the people who use the symbols that are close to our hearts”, said the Imam of the Carcassonne mosque, Mohamed Belmihoub, as he left the service.
“‘Allah Akbar’, is a symbol of the adoration of God. It means that God is greater than hate,” he said, adding: “We cannot find the words. We are in shock.”
The Imam said he attended the service “to prove that France is mother to everyone. We’re part of this country. It is multi-colored, multi-faith France. Everyone has to get this into their heads. We have to live together and fight these lost sheep.”