The following letter was emailed to the Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Florida by the Rev. Kent Svendsen, the minister who pastors the First United Methodist Church of Forreston and Leaf River United Methodist Church, both west of Rockford.
As you probably know the Florida minister has backed off on his intention to burn a Quran.
Sept. 8, 2010
The Dove World Outreach Center of Gainesville, Fla., has announced its intentions to burn a Quran this Sept. 11. I would like to share with you the e-mail letter I wrote to that church outlining the reasons why that should not take place.
As an ordained United Methodist minister as well as a retired Army Reserve chaplain who has experience both in the religious and political aspects of this issue, I often hear people ask the question:
Why don’t we hear more about Muslims condemning radical Islam and its actions of hatred and violence?
Let’s turn that question around here, for this is an example of Christian hatred and violence pointed at the Muslim world. Let’s lead by example and take a public and vocal stand against this same type of behavior on the part of people who call themselves Christians.
I am here to declare that the actions of the Dove World Outreach Center do not represent the Christian world and that they are in fact contrary to the commandments of Jesus Christ. That as Christians we are called to show others that we are truly Christian by the way that we love others. That honoring and protecting the things other people call sacred, even if we don’t personally believe them sacred, is the greatest principle of democracy that we could every model for the rest of the world. The following is the message I sent to the church in Gainesville, Fla.
“I served as chaplain to the detention center in Guantanamo Bay Cuba for a year and am very knowledgeable about Islam and the Muslim world. I’m fully aware of what Surah 5:116-117 says in the Koran as well as the very real dangers of radical Islam and their political agenda. In fact I have used tools like the documentary “Obsession” to teach about the dangers of radical Islam. What I don’t understand is why as a Christian church you would what to fuel hatred and violence against the entire world of Islam. I am telling you as one who is knowledgeable about this issue what results will come from these words and actions on your part.”Just the mention by Newsweek years ago of a false report of a Quran being flushed down the toilet resulted in people dying. Just the announcement of your intention to burn the Quran whether you actually do it or not will (not may) result in people being injured and killed. And I can guarantee you that your intentions will be broadcast over and over again to the Muslim world and used as a powerful tool against us.
“I’m an evangelical Christian and a church minister as well as a retired military chaplain. So in that regard I come to you as a brother in Christ who has bent the knee and declared that Jesus Christ is Lord over all creation. What you are doing in this regard is not serving the cause of our Savior. We are not called to use tactics of violence and hatred to seek victory for the kingdom of God. I’d be interested in knowing how your church interprets the words of Jesus Christ: ‘You have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5).
“I am pleading with you to not go through with this action. If you do it will become the best tool radical Islam could ever hope to obtain.”
The Rev. Kent Svendsen
Retired Army Reserve chaplain
United Methodist pastor
Northern Illinois Conference