Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Vatican: Koran Burning "Outrageous"

Making an unusually-pointed intervention on a local situation, this morning the Holy See joined a broad international chorus in condemning a Florida Evangelical pastor's plan to burn a stack of copies of the Koran to mark Saturday's ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Here, the unsigned statement released from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue:
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue received with great concern the news of the proposed "Koran Burning Day" on the occasion of the Anniversary of the September 11th tragic terrorist attacks in 2001 which resulted in the loss of many innocent lives and considerable material damage.

These deplorable acts of violence, in fact, cannot be counteracted by an outrageous and grave gesture against a book considered sacred by a religious community. Each religion, with its respective sacred books, places of worship and symbols, has the right to respect and protection. We are speaking about the respect to be accorded the dignity of the person who is an adherent of that religion and his/her free choice in religious matters.

The reflection which necessarily should be fostered on the occasion of the remembrance of September 11th would be, first of all, to offer our deep sentiments of solidarity with those who were struck by these horrendous terrorist attacks. To this feeling of solidarity we join our prayers for them and their loved ones who lost their lives.

Each religious leader and believer is also called to renew the firm condemnation of all forms of violence, in particular those committed in the name of religion. Pope John Paul II affirmed: "Recourse to violence in the name of religious belief is a perversion of the very teachings of the major religions" (Address to the new Ambassador of Pakistan, 16 December 1999). His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, similarly expressed, "…violence as a response to offences can never be justified, for this type of response is incompatible with the sacred principles of religion..." (Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI, to the new Ambassador of Morocco, 6 February 2006).
B16 is shown above receiving a copy of Islam's sacred text during his 2008 meeting with the interreligious community at Washington's Pope John Paul II Cultural Center.

Here, a snip from that encounter's PopeTalk:

Americans have always valued the ability to worship freely and in accordance with their conscience. Alexis de Tocqueville, the French historian and observer of American affairs, was fascinated with this aspect of the nation. He remarked that this is a country in which religion and freedom are “intimately linked” in contributing to a stable democracy that fosters social virtues and participation in the communal life of all its citizens. In urban areas, it is common for individuals from different cultural backgrounds and religions to engage with one another daily in commercial, social and educational settings. Today, in classrooms throughout the country, young Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and indeed children of all religions sit side-by-side, learning with one another and from one another. This diversity gives rise to new challenges that spark a deeper reflection on the core principles of a democratic society. May others take heart from your experience, realizing that a united society can indeed arise from a plurality of peoples – “E pluribus unum”: “out of many, one” – provided that all recognize religious liberty as a basic civil right (cf. Dignitatis Humanae, 2).

The task of upholding religious freedom is never completed. New situations and challenges invite citizens and leaders to reflect on how their decisions respect this basic human right. Protecting religious freedom within the rule of law does not guarantee that peoples – particularly minorities – will be spared from unjust forms of discrimination and prejudice. This requires constant effort on the part of all members of society to ensure that citizens are afforded the opportunity to worship peaceably and to pass on their religious heritage to their children.

As previously noted, the pontiff recently chose "Religious freedom, the path to peace" as the focus for the church's 2011 observance of the World Day of Peace (1 January). The traditional papal message on the theme will appear later this fall.

On a related note, over the weekend the Vatican issued a public protest over the planned stoning of an Iranian woman on charges of adultery, offering its diplomatic service for mediation in the hope of saving the woman's life.

PHOTO: Getty