Open letter to pastor planning Quran burning for 9/11

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 8, 2010

I don’t know if he’s merely one more hate-mongering headline hunter, or some seriously misguided zealot, but I do know this: that this coming weekend, at the strike of a match, a Florida pastor could well ignite a global conflagration the likes of which the world has never before experienced.

This Saturday, on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York City, Terry Jones, pastor of the 50-member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., is hosting an “International Burn a Quran Day.”

He’s doing it as a warning, he says, that Islam is a “religion of the devil.”

The Quran (spelled also Qur’an, Koran and Kur’an) is the sacred book of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.

Comparing Islam with Christianity, “if Christ is the Word of God made flesh, the Koran is the Word of God made text,” explained Toby Lester, writing in the Jan. 1999 issue of Atlantic Monthly, “and questioning its sanctity or authority is thus considered an outright attack on Islam – as Salman Rushdie knows all too well.”

Perhaps Pastor Jones is beginning to know all too well, too, how Muslim hardliners feel about his outrageous plan?

Several thousand demonstrators marched on the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, this past weekend, condemning his insult to their religion.

In Kabul, Afghanistan, 500 demonstrators burned the Florida pastor in effigy and demanded the death of U.S. President Barack Obama, who, some believed, is complicit in the planned Quran burning.

This has prompted Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, to express deep concern for the welfare of his troops.

Christian leaders around the world are also condemning the Quran burning. The National Association of Evangelicals warned Pastor Jones that his disrespectful actions would only worsen already tense relations between Christians and Muslims.

The Catholic Archbishop of Mumbai, India, accused Jones of being “irresponsible” and making statements that give rise “to extremism and hatred.”

According to a Sept. 3 article by Chad Smith in The Gainesville Sun, leaders of the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – “stood together on the steps of (the Gainesville) City Hall at noon (last) Thursday as a show of solidarity” in their challenge to Jones’ provocative actions.

I, too, will add my voice to theirs in an open letter to Pastor Jones. I do this as a Christian who in no way can agree with his reprehensible actions, and as a Canadian concerned with repercussions in our own land:

Dear Pastor Jones,

In your determination to proceed with your plans to burn copies of the Quran, the sacred book of Islam, this Saturday, the ninth anniversary of 9/11, I would respectfully ask you to reflect for a moment on the teachings of our own Christian Scriptures on how to respond to those with whom you disagree.

I’ll start with the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45).

In what possible sense, Pastor Jones, can you honestly say that burning copies of the Quran is an act of prayer on behalf of a billion-and-a-half people you believe are persecuting you?

And your intentions, far from being seen as acts of love, are already provoking anger and the real possibility of uncontrollable violence and revenge, in violation of another scripture: “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).

In your provocative desecration of Islam’s holy book, you may be underestimating how violence begets violence. Have you forgotten our Lord’s rebuke of Peter when the apostle drew his sword to defend Jesus at His arrest? “Put your sword back into its place,” Jesus said; “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

In this regard, have you given any thought to your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who just might pay with their lives for your willful act? You may not be harmed personally, but what about them?

There are vengeful people in all religions, including Islam. Are you really prepared to gamble with the lives of so many, Christian and non-Christian alike, just so you can make your point? How much innocent blood are you prepared to bear on your hands? The only blood Christ bore on His hands was His own – and that was out of love for His persecutors.

My brother, consider carefully the consequences of what you are about to do. Emotions are tinder dry out there. Put away your matches before you start a wildfire no one can put out.

Your fellow believer,
Warren Harbeck

© 2010 Warren Harbeck

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