[ACNS source: Convocation of American Churches in Europe] After a series of attacks on mosques and synagogues in France and Belgium in 2002, the Rt Revd Pierre W. Whalon, Bishop in charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, launched an appeal for funds for a Houses of Worship Restoration Fund. “It was meant to be a gesture of solidarity from the American churches in Europe, who are now more than ever under threat of attack,” said Bishop Whalon.
On 25 September 2003, Bishop Whalon was finally able to give half the money raised to Doctor Dalil Boubakeur, Rector of the Great Mosque of Paris and newly-elected president of the Conseil français du Culte musulman (French Council of Islam). “I would have given the money earlier in the year, but I realised that there was competition among various Muslim groups as to who could speak for Muslims in France,” said the bishop. “But the Minister of the Interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, got the various factions to form the council, which recently elected Dr Boubakeur.”
Dr Boubakeur accepted the check for €1.500 (US$1,710) in the presence of His Royal Highness, Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. The Prince had invited the bishop to meet with him at the mosque to discuss a conference being organised at the American Cathedral in Paris next June 12 and 13 by the cathedral’s canon theologian, the Revd Dr George Hobson. (Prince Hassan, a world leader for interreligious dialogue, has agreed to participate in the conference.)
Bishop Whalon decided that the Prince’s visit to the mosque was an opportune moment to give the funds raised from European and American congregations and individuals. “We Muslims are deeply moved by this gesture of solidarity, coming as it does at a critical time,” said Dr Boubakeur.
Also present was the former Grand Rabbi of France, Samuel Sirat. A formal ceremony for the remission of the other half of the fund to representatives of Judaism in France is being planned.