09/02/2010, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Christian and radical Muslims: dialogue, instead of burning the Koran

by Mathias Hariyadi
Protestant and Roman Catholic bishops met with leaders of a Muslim extremist group, to condemn the proposal by a U.S. church to burn the Koran on the anniversary of September 11. The common call to continue and deepen exchange and dialogue.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Islamic fundamentalists and Christian leaders gathered in Jakarta to condemn the initiative of an American evangelical church to launch the International "burn a Koran" Day next September.

The meeting was held in in Cikini II, Central Jakarta, and was attended by the bishop of Amboina Petrus Canisius Mandagi President of the Inter-religious Commission of the Bishops Conference of Indonesia (KWI), Mgr. Johannes Pujasumarta KWI Secretary General and the Bishop of Bandung, Rev. Andreas Yewangoe head of Indonesian Protestant Christian churches of the Synod (PGI) and Habib Rizieg leader of the known extremist group Islamic Defender Front (FPI). The meeting was organized to open friendly dialogue and to avoid possible conflicts between Christians and Islamic radicals as a result of the controversial proposal of the evangelical Christian group Dove World Outreach Centre to burn the Koran.

The Florida (USA) evangelical group has proposed September 11, 2010, as the "International burn a Koran Day”, inviting everyone to burn a copy of the Islamic holy book, on that day, in protest over the attack on the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001. The initiative has provoked heated protests by Muslims around the world and condemnation from Christian groups and environments. Its leader, Pastor Terry Jones, is no stranger to initiatives such as the distribution of t-shirts that said "Islam is the devil" and his blog has even written "Ten reasons to burn a Koran" . Even in Indonesia there have been widespread protests and 27 August over 100 Muslims demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta, with threats of severe retaliation if the action is carried out.

The participants agreed that this initiative is entirely foreign to Christians in Indonesia.

Bishop Mandagi expressed "strong regret to have learned of such provocative actions that want to strike our Muslim brothers. Similar uncivilized initiatives should be banned in all part of the world". On behalf of the KWI, he also expressed best wishes to all Muslims in the country, for the holy month of Ramadan.

Even the Pastor Yewangoe condemned the initiative of a small number of Christians in the U.S. and presented out a document sent to U.S. President Barack Obama asking him to intervene "to stop or cancel the announced initiative to burn the Koran."

"Habib Rizieq, head of FPI, expressed his gratitude for the empathy and the sympathy of these Christian communities," Mgr. Pujasumarta wrote in his blog.

Rizieq also commented that this meeting was a big step to reduce the different points of view on current issues and expressed the desire to continue such dialogue. "Nothing is impossible - he said - through dialogue."

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