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Mideast churches denounce Quran burning

Sept. 9, 2010 4:02 A.M. (Updated: Sept. 11, 2010 12:28 A.M.)
JERUSALEM (Ma’an) -- A Florida church which says it intends to burn 200 copies of the Quran is not acting "within the teachings of Christianity," the patriarch of the Greek Orthodox church in Jerusalem said Thursday.

The Council of Churches in the Middle East condemned the plans, calling them in a statement a "detestable crime against the teachings of Jesus Christ, and all of the values of the Church."

Burning the Muslim holy book, they say, contravenes international conventions of human rights.

“We as the successors of Al-Uhda Al-Umariyya (the Covenant of Omar) unite with our brothers in all the Holy Land churches and with all our Muslim brothers to stand against the implications of the plan that extremist thinkers and graduates of hatred and intolerance schools will try to enact," the statement said.

The Covenant of Omar dates back to 638 when the Caliph Omar took the city of Jerusalem from its Christian Byzantine leaders. According to historians, Omar rode into the city on a camel, blessing the Christians and offering them a covenant that stipulated their safety of life and property, freedom of worship, freedom to leave in safety, and the security of their churches in exchange for the obligation to may taxes. Omar and his taking of Jerusalem is remembered as one of the highlights of a tradition of Christian-Muslim coexistence in the city.

Jerusalem Patriarch with the Greek Orthodox Church Theophilus III personally condemned what he called the assault of religion that the proposed Quran-burning entailed. In the name of all the Christians in the east, the Patriarch called on the American authorities to "take the right measures and forbid the burning."

In Washington, US President Barack Obama on Thursday urged Terry Jones, pastor of a small evangelical church in Gainesville, Fla., to cancel his plan to burn copies of the Muslim holy book, warning that such a "stunt" would amount to a "recruitment bonanza for Al-Qaeda."

"If he's listening, I hope he understands that what he's proposing to do is completely contrary to our values as Americans, that this country has been built on the notion of freedom and religious tolerance," Obama said. "And as a very practical matter, I just want him to understand that this stunt that he is talking about pulling could greatly endanger our young men and women who are in uniform."

Obama added: "Look, this is a recruitment bonanza for Al-Qaeda. You could have serious violence in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. This could increase the recruitment of individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American cities or European cities."
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