The following statement responds to a campaign initiated by the World Dove Center, Gainesville, Florida,  urging the observance of September 11 by “burning Korans,” as well as other events of religious intolerance happening nationwide.

Many of us face difficult challenges these days as society experiences economic, political and social change. Under the stress of these changes, there rises an impulse to identify people who are different from us as somehow responsible for what we all are going through. As Christian leaders, we encourage both the faithful and all persons of goodwill to resist these negative impulses that would denigrate other peoples and their traditions. The issues we all face are far more complex than simply blaming problems on those who are different.

Therefore, we wish to say as clearly as possible that hostility toward and disrespect of other religious traditions goes against a Christian witness. History shows us that publicly burning sacred writings leads to persecution. The public burning of other religious texts, the automatic rejection of the construction of religious buildings, and the harassing of worshipers as they enter and leave their religious facilities are unacceptable and indefensible. To do so in the name of Jesus is a failure to receive what he taught, including among many other sayings,

  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

In this truly globally-aware world, what is done in the name of Christianity here is heard on the other side of the world. Perhaps some think they can gain a local audience with strident rhetoric, but it can have devastating impact on Christians in other places. That has been true for Muslims in America, and we should make every effort to change course and welcome them. Christians are not to practice “an eye for eye”; we should resist temptation to retaliate in kind. Such behavior does not bring the reign of God.  Disciples of Jesus are called to live out a new reality so that others might experience the peace of God through our interaction with them. We call upon any who have issued statements of hostility to retract them, and for those who have called for burning religious books to end their campaign with a public statement.

As our nation approaches the anniversary of September 11, let us look for the opportunity to acknowledge that both Americans from our rich diversity and representatives from around the world died from a shameful act of terrorism. Extremists killed innocent Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, secularists, and Christians. Our grief is shared by people of many national origins and religions. It was an attack upon civilized society by those who demonize America. Let us clearly reject this power to demonize others, and so honor with dignity all victims of that day.

May God bless our Muslim neighbors with peace as they now observe Ramadan with fasting, prayer, renunciation of evil, and re-dedication to the service of God for the well-being of all.

The Rev. Russell L. Meyer
Executive Director
Florida Council of Churches
Bishop Charles Leigh
Florida Council of Churches President
Apostolic Catholic Church
Bishop Timothy Whitaker
Dean, Council College of Judicatory Leaders
Regional Bishop for Florida Area
United Methodist Church
Rev. Kent Siladi
Florida Conference Minister
United Church of Christ
Rev. Willie Israel
Florida District President
Moravian Unity, Southern Province
The Rev. W Harvey Jenkins
Executive Presbyter (Ret.)
Presbytery of North Florida
Bishop Edward R. Benoway
Florida-Bahamas Synod
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Bishop Leo Frade
Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida
The Episcopal Church
Rev. Reginald Parsons
Synod of the South Atlantic
Presbyterian Church USA

Other statements of similar perspective include:

The National Council of Churches in Christ

The National Association of Evangelicals,

Resource: Confronting Hatred While Maintaining Freedom of Expression