The head of the Catholic Church in Pakistan has condemned in strongest terms the burning of a Qur’an in the US.
American Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, oversaw the burning by an evangelical preacher in a Florida church.
About 30 people attended the March 20 event which was presented as a trial of the book in which the Qur’an was found “guilty” and “executed.”
Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha, chairman of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, issued a statement in which he expressed anger and dismay at the incident.
“I condemn this act of sheer madness that does not represent Christian values or the teachings of the Church. We regret to note that someone who calls himself a pastor is ignorant of his religion and normal decency”, he stated.
Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari condemned the desecration yesterday in his opening address to parliament. Islamic groups have announced a countrywide protest to take place on March 25.
The archbishop urged fellow citizens to offer a convincing and civilized response to what he called “this extremely sad incident” rather than a sporadic reaction.
“Let us work to win hearts with peace rather than add fuel to the fire. The Christian community will stand together with the Muslim community in this civil response” he said in the statement.
“By the very message of their faith, Christians are obliged to respect other faiths and people. Therefore the Christians of Pakistan who are law abiding and themselves a marginalized community, condemn this incident in the strongest terms. We demand that the Government of the United States of America deal with this provocative act in accordance with the law.
“Fundamentalism or extremism in any religion is deplorable and a threat to peace and harmony between believers of different faiths. Religions have coexisted for centuries, people of various faiths learnt from one another, moreover there are more commonalities than differences among various faiths and scriptures” the statement continued.
Church leaders all over South Asia welcomed the “suspension” of a Qur’an burning event last September after Jones cancelled his plan to mark the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US.
Though both Vatican and the US government condemned the plan, two churches were attacked in Pakistan amid protests last September.