Senior bishops right across the Anglican Communion have spoken out against plans by a small Florida church to burn copies of the Quran. The leaders, many in countries with sizeable Muslim populations, spoke out against the burning, labelling the proposed act as “disastrous”, “ugly” and “deeply deplorable”.
Bishops from countries including Nigeria, England, Jerusalem, Egypt and Sudan all criticised the proposal of Terry Jones, leader of the previously little-known Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville in Florida, to burn hundreds of copies of the Quran.
Dr. Alexander John Malik, Bishop of Lahore in Pakistan said, “Muslims should take it as an individual act of a man who was bent upon defaming Christianity.” He said that interfaith harmony should not be put at stake just for an individual’s act.
In Nigeria, Bishop Josiah Fearon asked: “Would Christ do this [burn the Quran] in the interest of His Kingdom and the Great Commission that he passed on to his followers?” He concluded that Christ would not and called for Mr Jones not to proceed with his plans.
In a statement written in Arabic, the Bishop of Egypt, Dr. Mouneer Anis* said, “We strongly denounce any attempt to insult sacred texts that belong to our Muslim friends. We condemn the attempt to burn the Quran by one of the American pastors. We noticed that the church in which this is going to happen is an independent congregational church, and it is not part of any known denomination. We see this action as a departure from the teaching of Jesus Christ who called for love and peace.
“We grieve at the growth of the spirit fanaticism and extremism in USA and other parts of the world. We appeal to all followers of religions who love peace, to work together in order to overcome all the misconceptions, and in order to develop a spirit of love and peaceful co-existence. We here in Egypt are proud of the friendly spirit that prevails among Muslims and Christians who have lived together for fourteen centuries.”
The Rt. Rev. Suheil S. Dawani, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem said that of course Anglican leaders should condemn the proposed burning. “Our faith must include mutual respect for each other and does not allow us to do such ugly things,” he said. “This damages the interfaith work and the relationships we have which are built on the values we share in common with one another."
Five bishops from Ireland, including the Primate, also issued a statement saying: “This deliberate desecration of scriptures sacred to all Muslims is a gratuitous act of sectarianism and totally contrary to the Christian spirit of love and reconciliation. We recognise that the pain of this outrage will be felt by members of Islamic communities throughout the world.
We wish to assure members of the Muslim community in Ireland, that we condemn this sectarian act. We hope that as we continue to meet, talk and work together for the common good, our understanding of one another’s faith will grow and friendship between Christian and Muslim will deepen.”
Bishop Michael Jackson, Chairman of Network of Inter Faith Concerns of the Anglican Communion said, “Our work throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion brings us in contact daily with people of many world faiths who live alongside one another and strive to do so respectfully and peaceably. This act of violence and desecration of sacred scriptures does nothing to advance the peaceful co-existence essential to the dialogue of life and of ideas which lies at the heart of interfaith work”.
The Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Rev Dr Daniel Deng denounced all acts of terror and said, “Both the Quran and the Bible instruct people to love one another. The fundamentalist acts of the past should not be allowed to generate further fundamentalism in the Christian world. Furthermore, we should not allow bitterness and hatred to drive us way from God, in whose nature the virtues of love, mercy, and forgiveness are perpetual.”
In his 2010 Eid message, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams said that the threat to desecrate scriptures was “deeply deplorable” and to be “strongly condemned by all people”.
“These are challenges that we must respond to with a consistent message: that we oppose collectively all such provocations and insist that there is no place in our traditions for violent response.”
The Quran burning is scheduled to take place tomorrow, Saturday 11 September, although the Rev Jones has said that he is undecided about whether it will indeed go ahead.
Notes to Editors
1. *The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis is the Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East.
2. The Anglican Communion Office serves the Anglican Communion, comprising around 80 million members in 44 regional and national member churches around the globe in more than 160 countries. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/