Leaders in the United Church of Christ are strongly denouncing plans by a non-denominational Florida church to burn the Qur'an as “insensitive and hurtful to Muslims and, ultimately, anti-Christian.”
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president, called on leaders and members of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., to cancel its stated plans to burn copies of the Muslim holy book on September 11.
“Burning the Qur'an is as unacceptable and morally reprehensible to Muslims as the burning of the Bible would be to Christians,” Black said. “This potential display of interfaith hostility is not only offensive to Muslims, but to Christians as well, because it contradicts the ministry and teachings of Jesus, who called his followers to welcome others, not defile them.”
The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries and a member of the UCC’s five-person Collegium of Officers, said the Florida church is promoting fear and hatred in the name of Christianity, something that should raise concern for all who profess faith in Jesus Christ.
“This publicity-seeking act is insensitive and hurtful to Muslims and, ultimately, anti-Christian,” Jaramillo said. “My fear is that a public burning of the Qur'an in the United States will create the false impression around the world that many U.S. Christians share this anti-Muslim sentiment, when this is definitely not the case. It could incite violence at a time when peace and understanding are needed most.”
UCC leaders are joining other interfaith leaders who have publicly condemned the church’s plan, including the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, who said it must be made “abundantly clear to the international community that millions of Americans reject the anti-Muslim expressions of some communities who seem to be reacting out of fear and a misunderstanding of the true nature of Islam."
Black, who is just returning from a two-week trip visiting UCC partners in the Middle East, said the UCC delegation encountered much discussion and dismay about the planned burning from Middle Eastern Christians, who work actively in the area of interfaith relations.
“As members of the UCC, we must join our voices with Christians, Jews and Muslims around the world and make it perfectly clear that the using religion to demean others is not only disrespectful, it is unacceptable,” Black said.
The Rev. Cally Rogers-Witte, executive minister of the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries and co-executive of the joint UCC/Disciples’ Global Ministries, emphasized that actions by some Christians in the United States can impact Muslim-Christian relations around the world.
“As we recently visited Christian partners in the Middle East, it was very sad to hear so many of them say, again and again, that actions and words of U.S. Christians have now put them in danger or at least made them be suspect in the eyes of many of their fellow citizens,” Rogers-Witte said. “Because some Christians in the United States have been quoted as being against Islam, frequently, on news around the world, Christians with whom we have had more than 180 years of relationships now feel frightened because of their faith.”