Washington (BWA)--Baptists in North America have condemned the burning of the Qur'an by an American pastor in the state of Florida.
The Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, burned a copy of the Qur'an on March 20 following a mock court trial presided over by its pastor, Terry Jones. The burning of the Qur'an led to protests by Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere, leading to loss of life, injury, and property damage.
The church had previously backed down from a threat to burn the Qur'an on September 11, 2010.
George Bullard, general secretary of the North America Baptist Fellowship (NABF), one of six regional fellowships of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), has condemned the Qur'an burning, declaring that the "book burning was obviously carried out by a pastor and congregation on the fringe of Christianity, and not within its core."
The BWA Regional Secretary for North America maintained that "a basic tenet of Christian civility is mutual respect for all of humankind, their deeply held faith perspectives, and that which they consider holy; such as their holy books."
Bullard went on to say, "while as Christians we consider the Bible to be the record of the authoritative, inspired Word of the Triune God, we do not live out the spirit of God's Word if we support or are silent about the burning of books like the Qur'an. Such actions sadden Baptist Christians everywhere, and provide an opportunity to express the love of God for all people; especially our Muslim brothers and sisters."
American Baptist Churches (ABC) USA also decried the book burning. Their General Executive Council, made up of national and regional leaders, and which met in Orlando, Florida, in early April, called the Qur'an burning the desecration of a sacred text that violates "the Great Commandment of Jesus to love God wholly and the neighbor as ourselves."
The group, also a BWA member body, indicated that the burning of the Qur'an "is not representative of the larger American Christian community, is an act that we deplore and causes us to reaffirm our historic Baptist commitment to religious liberty for all people and all faiths."
The ABC USA statement avers that "in our religiously diverse world we believe it is vitally important that we all reach out to each other with respect and openness to advance mutual understanding and cooperation among faith communities."