Burning Fears (Again)

I am posting below an e-mail I received from Barnabas Fund, a Christian organization based in the UK which supports and encourages persecuted Christians.  I post it because it makes a great follow-up point from my post yesterday.  I really only made the first part of an important point in yesterday’s post because I wanted to force people to think about what is happening.

As this post from Barnabas Fund indicates, there will likely be violence as a result of the burning of the Quran.  I agree with the conclusion of this post, that the action of Quran burning is “an unnecessary, offensive gesture” which will endanger the lives of brothers and sisters around the world.  I do believe that the Gainesville pastor has the right to do what he is doing, but having the right to do something does not make it the right thing to do.  He surely must recognize that he may be culpable for causing unnecessary conflict and, possibly, contributing to suffering.

Yet, to reiterate the point from yesterday’s post, I urge us also to reserve some ire for the Muslims who feel justified in killing as a response to free speech actions they don’t like.  I don’t mind if folks condemn Pastor Jones, but his actions are not the same as murder.  Murderers should be held to account, regardless of whether they were offended first by a book burning.  Burning the Quran does not justify Muslim murders.  I hope we will be clear enough to say that to Muslims.  I do believe that the pastor is unnecessarily provoking and offending Muslims, but I do not agree that they ought to kill innocent by-standers as a result of being offended.  There is something about this dynamic that is making the pastor’s point.  There is an irony in the Islamic ire.

Here’s the e-mail from Barnabas Fund:

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
International Director
Barnabas Aid
September 7, 2010

Contact us at info@barnabasfund.org or call 01672 564938 (from outside the UK phone +44 1672 564938).

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