Anglican leaders condemn burning of the Qur'an; Prayer offered

March 27, 2011

Anglican leaders have condemned the act of burning of the Qur'an on March 20 in Florida, United States. Bishop Alexander Malik of the Diocese of Lahore, Pakistan, said that "such acts were in flagrant contradiction to the teaching of Christianity ... They were the manifestations of sick minds busy in spreading hatred, bigotry and unease in society."

In Peshawar, Pakistan, Bishop Humphrey Peters noted that this was a "shameful act" performed "only to gain cheap popularity." Peters was speaking at a press conference alongside members of a Peshawar-based interfaith group 'Faith Friends' at which colleagues from the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities also expressed their anger at the action.

In Woking, England, Christian and Muslim leaders, who were members of the bishop of Guildford's Christian-Muslim Forum, stated, "We strongly condemn this irreligious and extremist act, as one unworthy of a follower of Jesus Christ. We continue to work together for good relationships between our two communities. We call on our Muslim brothers and sisters to understand that no true Christian supports this outrageous action. We pray that none will be incited by this unholy and extremist act to retaliate with unholy violence on local Christian communities."

Such comments echo the earlier sharp criticism that had been offered by Anglican leaders when the burning had first been threatened in September 2010. At that time Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt had stressed: "We strongly denounce any attempt to insult sacred texts that belong to our Muslim friends. We condemn the attempt to burn the Qur'an 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."

Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani said: "Our faith must include mutual respect for each other and does not allow us to do such ugly things."

Also in September 2010, bishops of the Church of Ireland described the gesture as "a gratuitous act of sectarianism and totally contrary to the Christian spirit of love and reconciliation."

Archbishop Daniel Deng of Sudan denounced all acts of terror and said, "Both the Qur'an 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."

A prayer (below) is offered by the Anglican Communion Network for Inter Faith Concerns that Anglicans may wish to use. Alluding to the well-known hymn by Charles Wesley, "O thou who camest from above," it stresses the importance of "kindling" not a book, but rather of a pattern of perfect and transformative love within us.

A prayer for a time of book-burning

'Kindle a flame of sacred love ...'
Lord save us from kindling passions of hatred;
Rather, grant us grace
so that through "acts of faith and love"
we may call others to the life of holiness
and transformation.
Grant your wisdom where there is lack of understanding,
insight where there is a spirit of aggression,
humility, when we are tempted to proclaim all the answers.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
Amen.

(Alan Amos)

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