Catholic, US Leaders Condemn Plan to Burn Qur'an

Call for Interreligious Respect

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GAINSVILLE, Florida, SEPT. 7, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Catholic leaders worldwide are joining with U.S. officials to protest a plan to publicly burn a Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, on Sept. 11.



Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville has said that he wants to hold a "Qur'an Burning Day" on Saturday's anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists.

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, Pakistan, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference, told Fides, "We strongly condemn this intention and this campaign, as it is contrary to the respect due to all religions, as well as contrary to our doctrine and to our faith."

Nazir Bhatti, chairman of the Pakistan Christian Congress, also appealed for the stopping of this initiative as "it could seriously harm Christian minorities in Muslim-majority countries."

This "Qur'an Burning Day," he said, "will be used by radicals Islamists as a pretext to attack Christians."

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, India, and president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, gathered several Christian and Muslim religious leaders to issue a joint statement expressing disagreement with this initiative.

They called the proposed act "contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ."

The cardinal stated, "I condemn this completely insensitive threat that is disrespectful to the Holy Qur'an, on behalf of the Catholic Church."

Irresponsible

Bishop Johannes Pujasumarta of Bandung, Indonesia, secretary general of the Indonesian bishops' conference, told Fides: "We have expressed our disagreement and have launched an appeal to have it canceled. We will continue to pray that nothing unpleasant occurs in Indonesia and throughout the world as a result of this irresponsible act."

Last weekend there were several demonstrations in Indonesia by Islamic groups protesting this initiative. Members of the Catholic bishops' conference in that country held a meeting with members of the Islamic Defense Front, a radical movement, in which they underlined the mutual respect between Christians and Muslims.

Fides reported that the front has "strongly condemned" the initiative of Jones, while underlining the fact that the only ones to be held accountable for the crime are those who physically commit it, since "it is by the sacrilegious act that they are stained, and not because they are Americans or Christians.

The news agency stated that other religious leaders throughout Asia are expressing concern for their communities, and are urging mutual interreligious respect.

Various U.S. leaders have also joined the Church leaders in condemning this initiative.

U.S. General David Petraeus, commander of the troops in Afghanistan, warned that Jones' plan could endanger the soldiers under his care.

He stated, "Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy."