No to Qu’ran burning, yes to peace!
Bishop keeps the peace as book-burning plan is shelved
By John Pontifex
CHRISTIANS in Pakistan, fearful of retribution from Muslims outraged by a US pastor’s plans to burn the Qur’an, say his apparent decision to put the scheme “on hold” is an answer to prayer.
Police chiefs have been under pressure over the past few days to beef up security across the country in response to Muslim fury sparked by Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ ‘International burn a Koran’ day, timed to mark the anniversary of 9/11.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need today (Friday, 10 Sept), Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad warned that the proposed Qur’an burning would have dire consequences for the local Christian community.
(Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan)
Speaking by telephone from Faisalabad, Bishop Coutts said: “Muslims have huge respect for the Qur’an and there is always the risk that the emotional reaction of people here would be to hit out at the nearest Christian.”
Amid increased tension among Christians concerned about possible retribution, Bishop Coutts held a series of meetings late into the night with police chiefs and Muslim leaders to stave off the threat of possible violence against his flock.
But, after hearing that the Qur’an burning was now ‘on hold’, Bishop Coutts said: “It is a relief to hear what has now happened.
“We need to remember the difference between talking about burning the Qur’an and actually carrying it out.
“If the pastor carried it out, it would light a touch paper, potentially causing a lot of damage.”
He also said: “If he were to burn the Qur’an, we would have to pay the price.”
Noting widespread anti-US feeling in Pakistan, he compared the planned Qur’an burning to a Protestant walking into a Catholic church at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland and desecrating the Blessed Sacrament.
He said his concerns were heightened by increased Muslim sensitivity and religiosity coinciding with the Islamic festival of Eid, which has just begun.
Bishop Coutts spoke to ACN minutes after a meeting with Faisalabad Christian leaders at which they had agreed to reach out to disgruntled Muslims by stepping up plans to greet Islamic leaders to mark Eid complete with banners and gifts.
There are ominous precedents in Pakistan concerning local Muslims hitting out at neighbouring Christians in response to perceived anti-Islamic activity in the West.
There was widespread outrage following on from the 2005-6 Prophet Mohammed cartoon controversy.
In February 2006, arsonists attacked a number of churches including St Mary’s Catholic Church, Sukkur, which was reduced to a blackened shell.
After continued government failure to provide long-promised compensation, Aid to the Church in Need helped fund a plan both to repair the church and extend it to meet the needs of a growing congregation.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 46.5 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charity’s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information or to make a donation to help this appeal, please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: email@example.com or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148.
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