Churches should be places of peace, prayer, sharing, and refuge, local Adventist leaders say.

Seventh-day Adventist believers in France expressed solidarity and compassion after a hostage-taking in a Roman Catholic church left an 86-year-old priest dead and another person seriously injured.

“When a church is desecrated, it is the believers who are suffering,” French Adventist leaders said in the statement released by the church’s Inter-European Division, whose territory includes France. “Churches and places of worship are spaces of peace, prayer, sharing, and refuge.”

Two men attacked Father Jacques Hamel while he was conducting morning mass at the Church of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray (Seine-Maritime) in Normandy on Tuesday. The attackers slit the priest’s throat and badly stabbed one of four hostages that they took in the church. Police later shot dead the attackers.

“This escalation of brutality and heinous crimes committed by humans against other human is unjustifiable,” the French Adventist leaders said. “Despite all legitimate feelings of sadness and revolt, we must always continue to fight evil with good and act for peace. We pray that God may change our hearts and minds.

“The Adventist Church encourages its members to respect the dignity of all men, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

On Facebook, Adventist Church president Ted N.C. Wilson called for prayer after the attack in France and a rare mass killing in Japan in which a man stabbed 19 people to death at a care home for people with mental disabilities on Tuesday.

“It seems like a never-ending series of horrific events that keep pouring into the news every day,” Wilson said. “The tragic killings in a disabled persons facility near Tokyo, Japan, and the blatant murder of a religious leader in France remind us that the winds of strife are increasing. Please pray for the families of those affected and pray that people will allow God to control them.”

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