19 September 2012

Africa: Anglican Leaders Condemn Anti-Islam Film and Violence

Anglican leaders across the Communion have spoken out about The Innocence of Muslims, a film containing anti-Islam content which has so far triggered protests, violence and death in countries like Libya and Egypt.

Both Anglican and Catholic Archbishops in New Zealand have condemned the film, its message and its promotion, alongside the Federation of Islamic Associations President and the city of Wellington's Regional Jewish Council Chairperson, Race Relations Commissioner and local Bishops.

According to Anglican Taonga magazine, the group labelled the film (which openly defames the Islamic prophet Muhammad) as "irresponsible" and "inflammatory", saying it was dishonestly made and presented, and designed to mislead, provoke hate, and cause harm.

"We call on all faith communities in New Zealand to remain calm and to strive to foster mutual understanding, counter hate, and promote dialogue, within and between our communities", they said.

In the Middle East, the Most Rev. Mouneer Anis, President Bishop, Jerusalem & the Middle East & Bishop in Egypt (one of the countries directly affected by protest and violence) has said that the response to this film was out of proportion and led to the death of innocent people, like the US Ambassador in Libya. "We here made it clear that we Christians reject this kind of provocative film", he said.

As an attempt to avoid future hostility, Bp Anis united with fellow bishops and has written a letter to Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, asking for a declaration that outlaws "intentional and deliberate insulting or defamation of persons (such as prophets), symbols, texts and constructs of belief deemed holy by people of faith".

European Anglicans have also responded to the video. The Bishop in charge of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, Rt. Rev. Pierre Whalon, denounced the film by issuing a statement from Paris on 17th September.

In it he said: "This crude bit of anti-Islam propaganda is nothing more than hate speech, and in France and several other European countries the producers would be facing charges. In the United States, it is famously illegal to cry "fire" in a crowded theater - freedom of speech does not cover every expression".

Bp Whalon, who is also a signatory to the Call and Commitment to Action of the Christian-Muslim Summits, urged religious leaders to continue to work together for calm, especially in those nations where Christians are a vulnerable minority.

"The real purpose of this "film" seems to be to inflame Christians against Muslims in general by presenting hateful lies as fact. By depicting the Prophet in the worst possible terms, it also seems to have been created in the hope of inciting riots by angry Muslims. Sadly, this is its only success".

According to Bp Whalon, those who planned and created the film would have much to answer for when they came before the judgment seat of God. He went on to say that Christians and Muslims alike should continue to work to defeat attempts of extremists of every religion to create fear, hatred and violence. "Only love can cast out fear", said Rev. Whalon.

Earlier today, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced that French embassies and schools will have to be closed across 20 countries, after a French satirical magazine published cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad.

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