Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European Rabbis
Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, President of the Conference of European RabbisEli Itkin

The Austrian government has declared three days of national mourning in the wake of Monday’s terrorist attack that left four murdered and seventeen injured, some severely.

Reports this morning on Austrian media noted that victims were either shot or stabbed, with at least seven of those injured in critical condition.

Flags will be flown at half-mast and a minute’s silence will be observed at midday on Tuesday.

One of the terrorists was killed by police, and although initial reports suggested that there was just one other attacker involved, the Austrian authorities have subsequently revised that assessment, and admit that they are as yet unsure how many terrorists may have escaped. Last night, the Austrian Interior Minister warned that at least one “heavily armed and dangerous” person was on the loose and advised citizens to remain indoors. Schools have been closed.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, issued the following statement:

“We are shocked and very sad about the terrorist attack in Vienna. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims and their families. This cowardly act of terror is an attack on all people in Europe, our values and way of life. We must no longer tolerate this terror. We must already fight against the causes of any kind of extremism. The deadly poison of hatred and extremism in the name of a religion or ideology must be fought more decisively than ever.

“The Islamist-motivated series of attacks in recent weeks also shows us that we need a new religious policy in Europe that also includes the security aspect and enables European states to remove the breeding ground for this religious extremism both online and offline. It is important to know what is being preached in mosques and other places of worship over here, by whom they are financed, what foreign influences are promoting such terrible deeds and how social media serves as a vehicle for this.

“Here, we need much more control and transparency. Religious leaders must be trained and certified here in Europe. They must show their loyalty to the laws that apply here. They must commit themselves to peace and tolerance and convey this to their communities in order to prevent religious fanaticism. The task now is to enable Europe to remove the breeding ground for this religious extremism.”