DETROIT — Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron was moved this week to have received correspondences from local Imams on behalf of Michigan Muslims, expressing condolences for the death of Catholic priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was killed by terrorists in Normandy, France, on July 26.
“We are greatly saddened and troubled to hear of his tragic death and wish to express our sadness that so humble a servant of God was called to his Lord in such a cruel and violent manner,” wrote Imam Steve Mustapha Elturk, co-chair of the Imams Council, in a letter sent to Archbishop Vigneron on behalf of the Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC). “We condemn in the strongest terms such a barbaric act. Islam calls for the protection of Churches and priests, not their murder and destruction of houses of worship…. Father Hamel devoted his entire life to serve the people. We pray that his devoted life in this world will be rewarded in the next with peace and joy.”
The letter denounced the “brutal crimes” of ISIS, linked the Judaic teaching of taking innocent life with teachings in the Quran, and asked the Archbishop to extend the Muslim community’s “heartfelt sympathies to the Archdiocese in France and to the flock that Father Hamel served.” Imam Elturk also expressed “continued solidarity” with Pope Francis on calling for peace and understanding.
Another member of the Imams Council, Imam Mohammad Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom in Dearborn Heights, wrote personally to Archbishop Vigneron, expressing that he was inspired to hear Pope Francis speak about and offer a prayer for defense against terrorism.
“When I heard the words of wisdom and truth from your most honorable Pope, I realized that the pure blood of Father Jacques turned to a tool of truth and awakening in the world of ignorance and injustice!” Imam Elahi wrote in his letter to the archbishop, adding that he admired the pope’s integrity and leadership. “As Your Excellency knows, the Muslims in general… are also paying a big price for the tragedy of terrorism, war and violence in the Middle East and the world. Let’s all together and with one voice reject the so-called religious and political radicalism and all those who fund, train and support those devilish forces of darkness and destruction and pray for a world of peace, respect, love and justice.”
Responding to Imam Elahi, Archbishop Vigneron conveyed appreciation for the messages on behalf of Michigan Muslim Community Council and from Imam Elahi himself, and likewise expressed his solidarity with his fellow faith leaders.
“I deeply appreciate your message of condolence, and the message offered by the Imams Council on behalf of the Michigan Muslim Community Council and Muslims in Michigan, on the occasion of the death of Father Jacques Hamel,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote to Imam Elahi. “It is a particular consolation to me that your message underscores the character of Father’s death as a witness to his faith in Jesus Christ. On behalf of all the Catholics of the Archdiocese I express my gratitude not only for your message but also for all the efforts you and your community make to work for that peace which is the fruit of the justice which God wills for us. Let us be resolved anew to be a light that illumines the path for all of us to walk together in harmony and mutual respect. We look forward to the day when with God’s help the darkness of violence and terror will be banished from the world he created.”
Archbishop Vigneron emerged as a leading voice in the U.S. Catholic Church in opposition to public proposals to restrict Muslims from entry into the United States, releasing a statement on the subject in December 2015. The Archbishop also served in 2010 on the Vatican’s Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Church in the Middle East, and each November hosts a prayer service for Eastern Rite Catholics for the intention of Christians who are suffering in the Middle East.
On the August 2, 2016 edition of the Paul W. Smith Show on WJR, Archbishop Vigneron was joined by Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi spiritual leader of the Islamic House of Wisdom and member of the Michigan Muslim Community Council. The two discussed solidarity between Catholics and Muslims in the wake of the murder of Fr. Jacques Hamel in France.
Listen to audio of Archbishop Vigneron and Imam Elahi on the Paul W. Smith Show