Israel, Defender of Religious Freedom, Calls for Unity to Oppose ISIS

Pres. Rivlin & Custos of the Holy Land Father Patton. Photo courtesy of Mark Neiman (GPO).

Pres. Rivlin & Custos of the Holy Land Father Patton. Photo courtesy of Mark Neiman (GPO).

The recent vicious murder of a priest inside of a church in France by ISIS terrorists not only received condemnation from Israel, but a call to united opposition of such fanatical violence and at the same time a reminder that Israel defends religious freedom in a region not known for such tolerance. “The whole world must stand up and fight to bring to an end the terrible winds of fundamentalism of those who believe that they have a right to harm or even kill those who do not have the same beliefs as them,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in comments released by his office. “It is our duty, each and every one of us, from every nation, every religion, every human being to oppose this.”

Rivlin made the comments while speaking with the new leading friar in the region, Father Francesco Patton. Rivlin, a Jew, while speaking with the Franciscan monk, highlighted Israel’s view of religion. “One of the most important values that Israel holds is the principle of the freedom to worship,” said Rivlin. Father Patton thanked Rivlin and echoed his sentiment. “I am very open to every kind of cooperation, we know that we have to always work together and maintain our good relationships, as you say this is a message to the whole world. Today the message coming from this region is not good, and we must work for peace.”

Cooperatively working for peace while opposing extremists such as ISIS was the message coming from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well. The Israeli leader, in comments released by his office, said he was “outraged” to hear about the murder of French priest Jacques Hamel. “ISIS proved once again that there is no limit to its barbarism,” said Netanyahu. “This horrific terror attack will only further unite the civilized world. Together, we will vanquish this evil.”

Israel has a unique place in the religious world, as it is home to the Bible and the religious birthplaces of both Judaism and Christianity, as well as being a foundational place for Islam.

Rivlin noted the historical significance of his country in telling Father Patton that Israel was working on developing the Jordan Valley, where Christianity recognizes the activities of John the Baptist. “We are working to develop this area to welcome pilgrims and also for water conservation,” said Rivlin. “Our cooperation together on this with all the peoples of the Holy Land is a message to the whole world.”

But cooperation in peace is not enough in the face of radicalism. “The whole free world must understand that our values are under attack. We must fight to defend them, lest we be overtaken by waves of intolerance and hatred,” said Rivlin, while also noting, “Israel stands side by side with the people of France, and we send our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, July 27, 2016)

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