One gratifying thing that came out of Terry Jones’s much-publicized plans to burn Qurans on September 11: The world, including the Muslim world, saw all of Christendom stand up and speak with one voice universally rejecting this provocation against Muslims.
Most significantly, of course, the Vatican condemned Quran burning as “outrageous” and “grave”—language that was repeatedly reported by Qatar-based Al Jazeera. The Arab-language news agency also ran a photo of Pakistan’s National Council of Churches marching with banners condemning Jones’s threat.
The Vatican’s denunciation was echoed by Catholic leaders around the world. In India, the archbishop of Mumbai and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, not only condemned Quran burning, he also put together a joint statement by Christian and Muslim leaders mutually rejecting the proposed act as “contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ.”
In Indonesia, members of the Catholic bishops’ conference met with the radical Islamic Defense Front to stress the mutual respect between Christians and Muslims. Gratifyingly, the Islamic Defense Front reportedly released a statement excluding retaliatory violence against Christians or Americans not involved in Quran burning, noting that “it is by the sacrilegious act that they are stained, and not because they are Americans or Christians.”
Other Catholic leaders in the West as well as in Muslim countries have condemned the book burning. In the US, USCCB committee chairmen Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory (Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs), Bishop William F. Murphy (Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development) and Bishop Howard J. Hubbard (Committee on International Justice and Peace) released a joint statement. In Iraq, Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk and Bishop Shlemon Warduni, the auxiliary of Baghdad, denounced Quran burning. So did Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, Pakistan, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference.
The Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, strongly condemned Quran burning as an assault on religion. Protestant leaders also spoke up. The National Association of Evangelicals released a statement objecting to the plan, as did the president of the Baptist World Alliance, John Upton.
Some of Evangelical Protestantism’s most prominent voices in the United States have spoken against Quran burning. Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist Billy Graham, who has described Islam as a “very evil and very wicked religion,” not only released a statement saying “It’s never right to deface or destroy sacred texts or writings of other religions even if you don’t agree with them,” but even attempted to intervene personally, repeatedly trying to contact Jones.
California megachurch pastor Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life, called for the “separation of church and hate,” adding, “Book burning is a cowardly act by those afraid that their beliefs aren’t strong enough to attract people if they are allowed a choice.” Charles Colson called it “foolish and contemptible,” and endorsed the conclusion of Dr. John Rankin, president of the Theological Education Institute, that such acts cause the Gospel to be slandered.
Among countless other examples that could be cited, one worth highlighting is an interfaith statement signed by Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, mainline Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders.
The overwhelming response from Christian leaders of all stripes is clear: The Christian world rejects burning the Quran.
That’s the good news.
What’s the bad news? More to come.
P.S. If you know of other prominent Christian statements on Quran burning, please let me know in the combox!