Muslims in France and Italy congregated at Mass on Sunday, a gesture of interfaith solidarity following a string of violent attacks that threatens to deepen the religious rift across Europe. From only a few miles from where 85-year-old Reverend Jacques Hamel was brutally murdered, Tuesday by two fanatics, to Paris’ iconic Notre Dame, where the rector of the Mosque of Paris invoked a papal benediction in Latin, many churchgoers were cheered by the gesture of Muslims who joined them to express unity with the slain. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on the elderly Reverend that has created fear among churchgoers in France and the UK.

Amidst the xenophobia against the Syrian refugees in particular, similar scenes were witnessed in Italy, where the head of Italy’s Union of Islamic communities, Izzedin Elzir, called on his colleagues to “take this historic moment to transform tragedy into a moment of dialogue.” Imams also attended Mass at the St Maria Church in Rome’s Trastevere neighbourhood, donning their traditional dress as they entered the sanctuary and sat down in the front row. Such gestures are not only important but sadly have become necessary to ensure that Muslims are not targeted due to the actions of a few terrorists who continue to malign our peaceful religion.

Pope Francis has played an instrumental role in encouraging this interfaith harmony by setting a remarkable example himself. He addressed reporters from his trip to Poland where he made a historic visit Friday to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former German Nazi concentration camp in Poland, to pay tribute to the more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, who lost their lives there in the Holocaust. He said, “The world is at war, but it is not a war of religions… a war of interests, for money, resources.” Most importantly he maintained “I think it is not right to identify Islam with terrorism” and “If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has refused to back down from an open-door refugee policy that has attracted fierce criticism following recent assaults in the country. Such voices of reason and those of peace are most welcome in the dissonance and violence that the world is witnessing today. If it weren’t for people like Pope Francis and Merkel, the refugees would be suffering a lot more than they are right now. Considering ISIS has destroyed their life, their homes and families, it is ironic that they are unable to escape the accusations of being a part of the very violence they escaped from.