The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and Christian leaders in the National Muslim-Christian Initiative are calling upon Christians in America to love their Muslim neighbors amid Ramadan observances and to stand against extremist ideas not peace-promoting Muslims.
"As our Muslim neighbors begin their observance of Ramadan with fasting, re-dedicating themselves to God and God's service, we as Christians are troubled by fellow Christians in the United States who are expressing intolerance against Muslims in words and deeds," the ecumenical leaders announced in a statement Wednesday as Muslims around the world began to mark the start of Islam's holiest month.
Citing Matthew 22:39, the leaders reminded their fellow believers how Christ has called them to "love you neighbor as yourself."
"It is this commandment, more than the simple bonds of our common humanity, which is the basis for our relationship with Muslims around the world," they stated.
That said, the ecumenical figures questioned the anti-Muslim tenor of actions and speech regarding the building of the hotly-debated, Muslim-led Cordoba House that seeks construction near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City.
They also decried the anti-Muslim actions and plans of "many church leaders and members," such as those of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., which plans to hold an "International Burn the Qur'an Day" on Sept. 11 – the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"Such open acts of hatred are not a witness to Christian faith, but a grave trespass against the ninth commandment, a bearing of false witness against our neighbor," the leaders stated. "They contradict the ministry of Christ and the witness of the church in the world."
In their remarks, the Christian figures reminded believers that the majority of Muslims – including American Muslims – are against the radical influences of Muslims who embrace terrorism and "teachings counter to the Qur'an and Islam."
They also noted that many Muslims, as well as Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others, lost family members in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
"We ask all Christians to promote respect and love of neighbor, and to speak and work against extremist ideas, working with Muslims as appropriate, in order to live out the commandment to love our neighbor, and to promote peace," they concluded.
Until Sept. 9, Muslims around the world will be observing Ramadan by fasting, praying, giving to charity, and putting more effort into following the teachings of Islam. From dawn to dusk, Muslims will try to abstain from food, drink, and sexual intercourse. They will also try to overcome emotions such as anger, envy, greed, lust, sarcasm, and gossip in their effort for self-control.
Notably, however, violent demonstrations against Christians are known to increase during Ramadan in predominantly Muslim areas, according to persecution watchdog groups such as Open Doors.
According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, the number of Muslims living in the world today is 1.57 billion. More than 60 percent of that figure is in Asia and about 20 percent is in the Middle East and North Africa.
Based on Pew's figures, one out of every four persons in the world today is Muslim.