Posted at 02:59 PM ET, 04/08/2011
How I tried to dissuade Terry Jones
By Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe , Chief Executive Officer/Secretary General,World Evangelical Alliance
Should Christian leaders condemn Terry Jones?
The short answer to this question is absolutely! In fact if you want to read our condemnation click here.
Before I get to the reasons behind our condemnation, you will note that we firstly strongly condemned the atrocities against the UN workers and others in Afghanistan.
When we first heard that Jones was holding a mock trial for the Koran, and then the subsequent news that he had supervised the burning of a copy, our initial response was to avoid any sort of knee-jerk reaction that might draw undeserved attention to his disrespectful and un-Christian behavior.
We simply did not want to put the spotlight on Jones or give the story any oxygen.
Why then did we decide to go very public with our condemnation of Terry Jones? There are a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, a video of Jones and his associate burning the Koran began to go viral and was drawing attention in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Churches were being burnt down and Christians were being killed. The headlines screamed, “American evangelical pastors burn the Koran.”
While many in the western world understand that Jones and his tiny fringe congregation are not in any way representative of true Christianity, we know that his actions would have been nuanced very differently in other parts of the world and that radicals would use them to stir up violence.
As a global association, serving 600 million evangelical Christians, we were asked by Christian leaders in Muslim majority countries to speak out clearly and distance evangelicals from Jones’ action. We wanted to make it clear that the actions of Terry Jones in no way reflect true Christian values and specifically those of evangelical Christians.
I have heard many commentators state that Jones was simply exercising his freedom of speech. While this may be true, as someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ, what we say and what do actually trumps our right to say it. Jones has stated that he wanted to stir the pot and provoke radical Muslims. I would ask why he wanted to do that when it was clear how radicals would respond.
Last September I spoke to Terry Jones several times trying to dissuade him from burning Korans. I asked him at one point: If he continued with his actions and radicals were to respond violently, would he come and sit with me with the widow of a pastor who had been killed or a congregation whose church had been burned to the ground, and explain to them why he had felt the need to provoke radicals to respond?
Now that the worst case scenario has happened, I ask Terry Jones again: Will you go to Afghanistan and look a widow in the eye and explain your compulsion to pull off a publicity stunt? Will you meet with the families of the U.N. workers and explain to them your provocative actions?
While those who committed the atrocities in Pakistan and Afghanistan are responsible for their actions and must be brought to justice, Terry Jones must ask himself some deeper questions. As someone who calls himself a Christian, why would he knowingly put his fellow Christians and other human beings at risk? As someone who says he is fighting for the rights of persecuted Christians, why would he want to add to their difficulties?
Yes, we most certainly condemn the actions of Terry Jones.
By Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe , Chief Executive Officer/Secretary General,World Evangelical Alliance | 02:59 PM ET, 04/08/2011