On Burning Copies of the Koran

We heard that Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida is planning to burn copies of the Koran to protest the September 11 terrorist attacks. Our Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton joins her voice to the voices of the interfaith group of Evangelical, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim leaders who met in Washington, DC and condemned Jones's plan as a violation of American values and the Bible.

Our attitude towards Islam is the same as the attitude of the second Vatican Council in his "Declaration about the Relation of the Church to other Religions" (Nostra Aetate, 1965). This Declaration defines the relation of the Church to Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. In the section about Islam, the Council says:

"Upon the Muslims, too, the Church looks with esteem. They adore one God, living and enduring, merciful and all-powerful, Maker of heaven and earth and Speaker to men. They strive to submit wholeheartedly even to His inscrutable decrees, just as did Abraham, with whom the Islamic faith is pleased to associate itself. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin mother; at times they call on her, too, with devotion. In addition they wait the Day of Judgment when God will give each man his due after raising him up. Consequently, they prize the moral life, and give worship to God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Although in the course of the centuries many quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this most sacred Synod urges all to forget the past and to strive sincerely for mutual understanding. On behalf of all mankind, let them make common cause of safeguarding and fostering social justice, moral values, peace and freedom."

Muslims consider the Koran to be the word of God and we have to respect their religious conviction. Any intentional damage or show of disrespect to the Koran is deeply offensive. To burn copies of the Koran is an act of utmost disrespect. Furthermore it goes against the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ in His Sermon on the Mount. I wonder whether Pastor Jones could still read this passage of the Gospel after burning copies of the Koran:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)

We remind also Pastor Jones that if there are some passages of the Koran that call to the war against the infidels, these passages must be read in their historical context, as an incentive to the Muslims during their wars against other countries. And if the radical Muslims consider them as still valuable for today, most of the Muslims see that we cannot apply them to our modern world. And if some Muslims perform acts of barbarism, we, as civilized people, cannot respond by other acts of barbarism.

The clash today is not a clash of civilizations, as some would say. It is rather a clash between civilization and barbarism. Against barbarism our mission, as Christians and as enlightened people, is to spread the civilization of love. Do you intend, Reverend Pastor Jones, to draw back the civilized world to the era of barbarism?

With love and respect,

+ Archbishop Cyril S. Bustros
Eparch of Newton

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