10 September 2010
Koran burning receives international condemnation
UPDATE 12:30PM FRIDAY 10 SEPTEMBER: At a press conference on Thursday Pastor Jones announced that the Koran burning had been cancelled after an agreement was allegedly reached to relocate the planned Islamic Centre near Ground Zero. Following a denial that any such agreement had been reached by the Imam in charge of the New York centre Jones said that he was now only suspending his plans.
Reports also indicate that a man involved in protests against the Koran burning has been shot dead in Afghanistan.
A pastor in Florida has sparked a media and religious frenzy with calls to stage an 'International Burn the Koran Day' on the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Pastor Terry Jones intends to lead the burning of 200 copies of the Koran at this Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, saying that "Islam is a very oppressive religion, and the Koran is definitely a dangerous book."
Religious leaders have been quick to condemn Pastor Jones' actions. Richard Cizik, a prominent evangelical leader in the US, said: "To those who would exercise derision…bigotry, open rejection of our fellow Americans for their religious faith, I say shame on you."
Closer to home, Steve Clifford, General Director for the Evangelical Alliance, said: "History shows that offensive acts such as these are never isolated incidents as they can spread bad sentiment across the rest of the world, harming relations between Christians living in Muslim countries and those of the Islamic faith in the West."
The Dove World Outreach Centre attracts a congregation of 50 people, but the repercussions of its plan have been global, with protests in both the Afghan capital Kabul and Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim majority country. There are also fears that burning the Koran could lead to a backlash against Christians living in largely Muslim countries. Eddie Lyle, Chief Executive of Open Doors a charity supporting Christians who are persecuted for their faith, said: "This hysterical action is entirely inflammatory as it could bring dire consequences around the world.".
The number of people condemning Terry Jones has grown to include the State Department, which called the protest "un-American and inconsistent of our American values," top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan General David Patraeus, the NATO Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the US Attorney General Eric Holder, as well as the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and a host of other agency leaders, both religious and secular.
Geoff Tunnicliffe, CEO of the World Evangelical Alliance, has spoken with Pastor Jones and offered to fly down to Florida to speak with Jones and his congregation. "I pleaded with him on behalf of the global church to abandon his idea" Tunnicliffe reported.
Even after a plea from the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who spoke out against "this disrespectful, disgraceful act" and death threats to himself, Terry Jones is determined to go ahead with his plans this Saturday.
This controversy has come at a time with already increased tension between Christianity and Islam in the United States. It follows the proposal to build an Islamic cultural centre only streets away from Ground Zero the site of the 9/11 attacks, and protests outside a Kabul mosque where hundreds of Afghans protested chanting "Death to America."
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Notes to Editors
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