5 holy leaders pay respects to Paris victims
Imam decries acts of terror as not Islamic
Leaders of the five major religious groups in Thailand gathered in front of the French embassy Thursday to express their condolences to the French people, following last week's deadly terror attacks in Paris.
Representatives of Thailand's Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities told French ambassador Gilles Garachon their march to the embassy grounds was meant as a symbol of peace and unity after last Friday's horrific events.
"We want to show the world that we will never resort to violence against each other, but will use dialogue to resolve conflicts and build peace," said Msgr Vissanu Thanya-Anan, the executive secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Thailand.
The attack in Paris on the night of Nov 13 killed 129 people and injured 350 others. Following the attack, Thai police have been deployed to guard the French embassy on Charoen Krung 36 Road around the clock.
The five religious leaders successively joined in prayer for the dead victims -- each according to their own religious tradition -- in front of the embassy's walls, before entering the compound to sign the condolences book.
In their message to the French people, they condemned the acts of violence perpetrated in the name of religion.
Thanarat Watcharatisud, the Imam of Haroon Mosque in Bang Rak, just across the street from the French embassy, said that, as a Muslim, he felt deeply shocked and saddened by the Paris events. He said he feels the attacks had nothing to do with religion.
Actions performed out of religious beliefs must benefit religion, he said, but these assaults on innocent, peaceful civilians have only caused damage to all faiths.
"We therefore united ourselves, to express our standpoint: We shall oppose all unjust acts which incorrectly refer to religion," the Imam said.
Phra Bhikkhu Pasanno, from the Rama 9 Jubilee Temple, agreed with Mr Thanarat, adding that all religions teach about peace. The attacks last Friday night in Paris were carried out by criminals who have no religion, he said, as no religion would allow such horrendous actions.
"Indeed, what happened in Paris had nothing to do with religion. The religions you represent are based on respect and tolerance," Mr Garachon told the religious communities representatives. He thanked them for their presence and support.
Mr Garachon said he was not worried about the security of the French embassy in Bangkok or French citizens in Thailand, as the Thai authorities and public have given their full support to the mission.
"The best answer we can give to intolerance, is tolerance. And feeling no fear, " he said. Mr Thanarat said he was concerned there might be an Islamophobic backlash following the Paris attacks. Before making a decision, people should closely study Islam, he said.
"Once they read into it carefully, they will realise that Islam teaches nothing but peace."