Though I might have said it somewhat differently, I wholeheartedly support the main thrust of this statement. I herewith go on record as strongly opposing the burning plan. Furthermore, I urge American authorities to stop this deranged church from engaging in a project that is sure to further enflame anti-Christian, anti-Western and anti-American emotions among Muslims everywhere, including Americans. It is almost sure to lead to bloody riots, loss of lives and destruction of properties. It flies flat in the face of Christian attempts to promote a more positive image of Christ among Muslims. Though I fully support and insist on freedom of speech and expression, I do not support extreme forms of it that seem calculated to cause violence and bloodshed.
Here, then, the Barnabas statement:
Qur’an burning: “an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture”
Barnabas Aid statement on the proposed burning of Qur’ans in Florida
A church in Gainsville, Florida, USA, the Dove World Outreach Centre, has announced that it will burn copies of the Qur’an on Saturday September 11 to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The stated purpose of this action is to raise awareness of the ideology and teaching of Islam and to warn against its dangers.
Barnabas Aid condemns the proposed action, for the following reasons:
1. Barnabas Aid is fully committed to making known the aspects of Islam that result in injustice and oppression of non-Muslims, not least the persecution of Christians. But we believe that the biblical and Christ-like way to do this is by speaking the truth in the power of God’s love, and by extending that love to Muslim people even when they are hostile to us. In that context it can never be justified to destroy a book that Muslims regard as sacred, however firmly and profoundly we may disagree with its contents.
2. The effect of the proposed action on Christians in Muslim-majority contexts is likely to be extremely serious. Already Muslim militants in Indonesia have promised to kill Indonesian Christians if Qur’ans are burned in Florida, and the history of anti-Christian violence in the country suggests that this is not an idle threat. Barnabas partners in Iraq have expressed concern at the probable Muslim backlash against an already beleaguered Iraqi Church. And Christians in numerous other places who live in daily fear of potentially deadly attacks will at once be placed in much greater danger. It cannot be right to exercise our freedom to protest in a way that puts at risk the lives of our brothers and sisters, for whom Christ died.
3. There is a further risk that Christian minorities may be divided among themselves as churches with links to the West come to be unfairly associated with the action taken in Florida and its destructive consequences. It is important for Christians under pressure to be united, as their division serves only to weaken the Church and increase its vulnerability to Muslim attacks. It is therefore wholly inappropriate to undermine that unity for the sake of an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture.
For these reasons Barnabas Aid urges the Dove World Outreach Centre and its supporters to refrain from burning Qur’ans on the anniversary of 9/11. It invites all Christians instead to join with us in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world, and that the hatred and violence that endanger them may be overcome by the grace and love of Christ.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
September 7, 2010
PS--I have published a statement on the same subject on my Companion Blog