The rancor that a Florida pastor of 50 people can create with inflammatory rhetoric and threats to burn the Koran, Islam’s holy book, is sad on many levels. When rumors of the planned desecration first surfaced, most people thought it best ignored. Now, given the bizarre nature of 21st century media, where every oddball can have frequent five minutes of fame, the church leader of a few dozen in Gainesville may have become the best known pastor in the world. Amazingly, he seems to be finding a bit of ripe soil in an anxious world where rather than sow peace he sows discord.
Pastor Terry Jones’s distortion of Islam undercuts efforts for peace, which are part of interfaith efforts of Christians, Jews and Muslims. The spirit of this dialogue was stated clearly by King Abdullah of Jordan, in a foreword he wrote for an about-to-be-released book Benedict XVI: Essays and Reflections on His Papacy. It is available through Amazon .com and other distributors and soon will be in bookstores nationwide. (Full disclosure: I’m editor of the work.)
Here are some of King Abdullah’s remarks in which he referred to Pope Benedict’s visit to Jordan in 2009.
“His Holiness spoke of his own deep faith, but also of the important common ground between Christianity and Islam -- the central commandment of both faiths: to love God and love our fellow human beings,’ King Abdullah said.
“Pope Benedict XVI's visit will long be remembered in Jordan. But at this critical time in history, its impact goes far beyond. Today, Muslims and Christians make up more than half the world's population. Misunderstanding and conflict between us would devastate all humanity. Working together is essential to the future all of us want: a healthy planet, peace among nations, the end to poverty, and bright futures for today's children. To me, these efforts and more are global expressions of the "love of neighbour" that God commands.
“By the bridges he is working to build between faiths, by his engagement in a global dialogue of mutual respect, His Holiness has won tremendous appreciation. His words of wisdom have reached millions of people on every continent. It is my hope that together, we can expand this dialogue to engage all our people in finding their common ground. For Muslims such an endeavour is an integral part of faith. For, God Almighty has said in the Holy Quran: O humankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes that you may know each other. (49:13)
“ Nowhere are our shared interests clearer than in the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. ‘Everything that can be seen in these countries,’ said His Holiness, ‘cries out for reconciliation, justice and peace.’ A special concern is safeguarding the multifaith identity of Jerusalem, Holy City to all three monotheistic faiths -- in His Holiness's words, ‘a microcosm of our globalized world.’ His call to conscience and his global statesmanship are vitally important to achieving the only settlement that will last -- two sovereign, recognized states, with freedom and statehood for Palestinians, and the security and acceptance Israelis need.
“These and other challenges of our age call us to come together, on common ground, to do God's will on earth. In this effort, Pope Benedict XVI has raised his voice for reason, justice, and love. May his efforts continue fruitful for many years to come.”
Let’s hope peace-loving people of all religions can be heard above the din in Gainesville.
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