As thousands of Muslims worldwide gathered over the weekend to protest one Florida group's plans to burn copies of Islam’s sacred text on the upcoming anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Christian leaders – liberal and conservative – reaffirmed their opposition to the burnings.
The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said the council had chosen to reiterate its statement in response to "many requests from persons of good will who wish to make it abundantly clear to the international community that millions of Americans reject the anti-Muslim expressions of some communities who seem to be reacting out of fear and a misunderstanding of the true nature of Islam."
“Misguided or confused about the love of neighbor by which Christ calls us to live, leaders and members of [the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla.] and others are engaged in harassment of Muslims, and in the planning of an ‘International Burn the Qur'an Day,’ to be held on September 11th,” stated the NCC’s original Aug. 11 statement.
“Such open acts of hatred are not a witness to Christian faith,” it added. “They contradict the ministry of Christ and the witness of the church in the world.”
Meanwhile, the World Evangelical Alliance on Friday republished on its website the July 29 announcement from the U.S.-based National Association of Evangelicals, which said it “laments efforts that work against a just and peaceful society.”
“The plans … to burn copies of the Qur'an on September 11 show disrespect for our Muslim neighbors and would exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims throughout the world,” the U.S. evangelical body stated. “The NAE urges the cancellation of the burning.”
In response to past calls, Dove World Outreach Center has maintained its position and defended its plans, claiming the burning “is a loving act.”
“We are using this act to warn about the teaching and ideology of Islam, which we do hate as it is hateful,” it explained. “We do not hate any people, however. We love, as God loves, all the people in the world and we want them to come to a knowledge of the truth. To warn of danger and harm is a loving act."
But NAE leaders argue that the “most powerful” statement by the organizers of the planned Sept. 11 bonfire would be to call it off in the name and love of Jesus Christ.
“We have to recognize that fighting fire with fire only builds a bigger fire,” said Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Orlando, Fla., and member of the NAE Board of Directors. “Love is the water that will eventually quench the destruction.”
On Monday, hundreds of Afghans gathered in the capital city of Kabul to denounce the Qur'an burnings, chanting "Long live Islam" and "Death to America."
The day before, thousands of Indonesians gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta to protest the planned burnings, carrying signs saying, "Jihad to protect Koran" and "You burn qur'an you burn in hell."
According to reports, the protesters included members of the hard-line Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia and the pluralism care movement, a multi-faith group.
"We hope that the U.S. government to stop this plan," Damien Dematra, the coordinator for the pluralism care movement, said in a news statement. “We represent Muslim, Christians and other religions who all wants to avoid any clashes as a result.”
This Saturday’s three-hour Qur'an burning is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET on the property of Dove World Outreach Center despite having been denied a permit by city officials last month.
The Gainesville, Fla., group’s Facebook fan page, meanwhile, has to date chalked up over 7,000 fans.
Dove World Outreach Center, led by Dr. Terry and Sylvia Jones, claims to be a “New Testament Church – based on the Bible, the Word of God.”