What Religious Leaders Can Be Learned from Terry Jones’ Plan?

JANET DALEY disagreed with the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) who worried about Rev. Terry Jones’ plan to burn the Quran. According to Daley, SBY’s worry is excessive and unreasonable.

Daley does not believe that Jones’ plan might ruin the relationship between Islam and the western world; much less threaten the world peace. “President Yudhoyono of Indonesia apparently believes so,” Daley wrote on her article: US Nutter Plans to Burn Copies of the Koran: Can One Idiot Really ‘Threaten the World Peace’? (The Telegraph, Thursday, 9/9).

Of course Daley has a basic reason to argue SBY’s statement. We know that Jones is not a leader with a high rank position and strong influence. His church, the church of Dove World Outreach Centre in Florida, United State (US) has only 50 members.

We also know that since planning to burn the Quran, Jones’ life has turned bleak. The bank which gave credit the Dove World, the property company owned by Jones, asked for the loan return. The Bank has forced Jones to pay US$140.000 in cash. To make the thing worse, the insurance company suddenly stopped its support to the church of Dove World.
Yes! Daley is right. Jones is weak and powerless. However, should the church leaders remain silent on Jones’ plan? Definitely not. They need to speak out.

They need to see this problem seriously. The Communion Churches in Indonesia (PGI) has sent an official letter to the US President, Barrack Obama. The letter stated that President Obama should take firm actions to prevent Jones’ plan. PGI is fully aware that Jones’ plan will adversely affect the harmony of religious life in Indonesia and elsewhere.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) was also taking serious action. The General Secretary of WCC, DR. Olav Fykse Tveit encouraged the WCC members in the United States to take part in a real action to address this matter. “This (plan of Jones’) has been firmly rejected …,” Tveit said on his Letter to the leaders of Muslim Communities throughout the World (Wednesday, 8/9).

Strong reactions have been shown by the National Council of Churches in the US (NCCUSA). The NCCUSA has stood on the front line to block the hatred towards Islam, including condemning Jones’ plan to burn the Quran. Together with 34 religious leaders (Christian, Muslim, Jewish and others) NCCUSA organizes collective action against the anti-Muslim attitudes in the U.S. They also made a statement against Jones’ plan.

In their statement, the religious leaders stated their concern on the violent actions committed against Muslims and the desecration of Islamic houses of worship in US. The disgraceful plan to burn Quran — which was triggered by the plan to develop the Islamic Centre at Ground Zero, in New York City — is a serious offence. ”We stand by the principle that attacking any religion in the United States means violating religious freedom of all Americans,” the leaders said strictly.

Along with the commemoration of September 11 tragedy, the religious leaders announced the new partnership which they called the New Era of Interfaith Cooperation. They are committed to building a future life where the religion differences shall no longer lead to hostility and division of communities. “Silence is not an option,” said leaders in the document entitled Beyond Park 51: Religious Leaders Denounce Anti-Muslim Bigotry and Call for Respect for America’s Tradition of Religious Liberty (Friday, 10/9).

Rev. Jones finally dropped his plan to burn the Quran. He told reporters that he would never burn the Muslim’s holy book now or later. Jones’ decision has given us important lessons to learn. There are at least three points that we can learn from it.

First, this is not a trivial matter. The church leaders did not underestimate Jones’ plans. They took quick responses to the problem which could potentially trigger violence.

Second, the church leaders have shown their commitment not to compromise with hatred and violence. Hatred and violence is the main enemy of the church in the recent decades.

Third, the church leaders did not work alone. They stood up together with their counterparts from other religions to find the best solution to the problem. This collaboration helps them to understand each other and accept the differences.

Religious leaders should realize that religious issues could spark a major conflict if not manage well. That’s why religious leaders should not underestimate the problem no matter how small it is. ***

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