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Evangelical leaders blasted a Gainesville, Florida, church's plans to burn Qur'ans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

"On September 11th, 2010, from 6pm - 9pm, we will burn the Koran," Dove World Outreach Center announced on its Facebook page, "in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 and to stand against the evil of Islam. Islam is of the devil!"

"Dove World Outreach Center, shame on you," responded Angel Nuñez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

"If I want to win a Muslim to Christ, I surely won't do it by burning the Qur'an in public and provoking them to hate us more," said Nuñez. "The greatest weapon a Christian has is godly love."

The National Association for Evangelicals released a statement Thursday urging the church, which averages 50 attendees each Sunday, to call off the event.

"It sounds like the proposed Qu'ran burning is rooted in revenge," said NAE president Leith Anderson. "The most powerful statement by the organizers of the planned September 11th bonfire would be to call it off in the name and love of Jesus Christ."

"I think it is appalling, disgusting, and brainless," said Richard Land, director of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. "I think that those of us who find what they are doing abhorrent should say so, and say so publicly and often."

Land added that the church's actions "besmirch the reputation of our Savior, and that makes it blasphemy."

"Followers of Christ and Americans don't burn books. Nazis burn books," said Chris Seiple, president of the Institute for Global Engagement.

"Christians are commanded to 'love because he first loved us,'" Seiple said, quoting 1 John 4:19. "Religious freedom is the essence of America—the responsibility to respectfully live with our deepest differences. The proposed burning of the Quran … violates both our Christian and American identities."

George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, believes that events like the Gainesville Qur'an burning could make things harder for Christian-Muslim relations.

"It only drives Muslims further away from the Lord Jesus and reinforces the false notion that followers of Jesus are crusaders from the Middle Ages," Wood said. "Such actions as these only make it more difficult to effectively witness to Muslims."

Seiple agrees: "If we cannot love our neighbor at home, amidst honest differences, we should not go abroad to share our faith. And don't forget: in a globalized world, everyone is a minority somewhere. Treating minorities with respect is not only the right thing to do, it's in our self-interest."

"Christians certainly don't want Muslims burning Bibles," Anderson said, "so as Christians we should certainly not burn the Qur'an."


Related Elsewhere:

Previous Christianity Today articles about the Qur'an include:

Out of Context | Debate over 'Camel method' probes limits of Muslim-focused evangelism. (March 23, 2010)
Amid Arrests, Another Outbreak of Violence in Pakistan | A mob in Pakistan went on a murderous rampage after a rumors spread that the Qur'an had been desecrated. (August 4, 2009)
Dirty Qur'ans, Dusty Bibles | If Leviticus or Jude suddenly disappeared from Scripture, would we notice? (June 20, 2005)
Islamic Fundamentals: The Qur'an | Christians have a responsibility to understand our Muslim neighbors and their beliefs. (March 1, 2000)
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