US faith leaders challenge bigotry in Ramadan statement

By staff writers
13 Aug 2010

The National Council of Churches USA, its Interfaith Relations Commission and Christian participants in the National Muslim-Christian initiative, have issued a statement to mark Ramadan calling for respect rather than bigotry.

It follows a growth in anti-Muslim sentiment in parts of the country, and controversy surrounding the proposal for a mosque as part of an interreligious site at Ground Zero, where thousands lost their lives as a result of the 9/11 terror attacks.

NCCUSA chief the Rev Dr Michael Kinnamon has personally supported the siting of the mosque with a theological and humanitarian appeal.

The statement particularly singles out for disavowal hate speech and hate actions from hard-line church and Christian groups in the USA

The faith leaders’ statement reads, in full:

“As our Muslim neighbours begin their observance of Ramadan with fasting, re-dedicating themselves to God and God’s service, we as Christians are troubled by fellow Christians in the United States who are expressing intolerance against Muslims in words and deeds.

“Christ calls us to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Matthew 22.39). It is this commandment, more than the simple bonds of our common humanity, which is the basis for our relationship with Muslims around the world.

“Grounded in this commitment, we question the anti-Muslim tenor of actions and speech regarding the building of Cordova House and mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. We are keenly aware that many Muslims, as well as Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others, lost family members in the attacks on September 11, 2001. We recognise, as does the Muslim community around the world, that it was a group of Muslims who embraced terrorism and teachings counter to the Qur’an and Islam that carried out this action. We stand with the majority of Muslims-including American Muslims-who are working against such radical influences in their communities. They have our support for building the Cordova House as a living monument to mark the tragedy of 9/11 through a community centre dedicated to learning, compassion, and respect for all people. This effort is consistent with our country’s principle of freedom of religion, and the rights all citizens should enjoy.

“We also decry the anti-Muslim actions and plans of many church leaders and members, such as those of the Dove World Outreach Center in the USA. Misguided or confused about the love of neighbour by which Christ calls us to live, leaders and members of this church and others are engaged in harassment of Muslims, and in the planning of an ‘International Burn the Qur’an Day’ , to be held on September 11th. Such open acts of hatred are not a witness to Christian faith, but a grave trespass against the ninth commandment, a bearing of false witness against our neighbour. They contradict the ministry of Christ and the witness of the church in the world.

“We ask all Christians to promote respect and love of neighbour, and to speak and work against extremist ideas, working with Muslims as appropriate, in order to live out the commandment to love our neighbour, and to promote peace.

“The National Muslim-Christian Initiative brings together 14 religious bodies from various streams of Muslim and Christian communities, who seek to enhance mutual understanding, respect, appreciation and support of what is Sacred for each other through dialogue, education and sustained visible encounters that foster and nurture relationships.”

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been a leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States.

The NCCUSA’s 36 member faith groups—from a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, Evangelical, historic African American and Living Peace churches—include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.

Also on Ekklesia The Rev Dr Michael Kinnamon's article on Cordova House and Mosque at Ground Zero - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12842

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