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  •   Interfaith Dialogue, Peace, Religious Freedom   •  

CNN: National Association of Evangelicals denounces church's Quran burning event

Screen shot 2010-08-01 at 11.58.52 AM The National Association of Evangelicals, the nation's largest evangelical umbrella group, is urging a Florida church to call off a planned Quran burning scheduled for September 11. Here's the NAE's statement:

NAE Urges Cancellation of Planned Qu’ran Burning

The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) encourages increased understanding and reconciliation between those of different faiths and backgrounds, and it laments efforts that work against a just and peaceful society. The plans recently announced by a Florida group to burn copies of the Qu’ran on September 11 show disrespect for our Muslim neighbors and would exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims throughout the world. The NAE urges the cancellation of the burning.

NAE President Leith Anderson said, “It sounds like the proposed Qu’ran burning is rooted in revenge. Yet the Bible says that Christians should ‘make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else’ (1 Thessalonians 5:15).”

In 1996 the NAE addressed religious persecution saying that “If people are to fulfill the obligations of conscience, history teaches the urgent need to foster respect and protection for the right of all persons to practice their faith.” [i] In the same resolution, the NAE pledged to “address religious persecution carried out by our Christian brothers and sisters whenever this occurs around the world.”

The NAE calls on its members to cultivate relationships of trust and respect with our neighbors of other faiths. God created human beings in his image, and therefore all should be treated with dignity and respect. The proposed burning of Qu’rans would be profoundly offensive to Muslims worldwide, just as Christians would be insulted by the burning of Bibles. Such an act would escalate tensions between members of the two faiths in the United States and around the world.

“We have to recognize that fighting fire with fire only builds a bigger fire,” said Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed, in Orlando, Fla., and member of the NAE Board of Directors. “Love is the water that will eventually quench the destruction.”

Anderson said, “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.”


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  •   Peace   •  

Evangelicals Support U.S., Russia Nuclear Arms Treaty

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 9.10.01 AM Evangelical leaders say the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Thursday will increase the chances of world peace.

Evangelical leaders say the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by President Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Thursday will increase the chances of world peace.

The treaty, called New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), will reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons in both countries and restore an inspection team to verify their arsenals. The inspection agreement expired in December.

"Wisdom is better than weapons of wars," said the Rev. Dr. Joel C. Hunter, senior pastor of the Orlando-based megachurch Northland - A Church Distributed, citing Ecclesiastes 9:18. "If implemented, the New START agreement will reduce the number of outdated nuclear weapons and the likelihood of terrorist appropriations of those weapons as it increases monitoring of nuclear material."

"It therefore will increase the chances of world peace from both state and non-state actors."

The new treaty, if ratified by lawmakers in both countries, would require each country to have a maximum of 1,550 strategic warheads, down from 2,200. It would also limit both countries to 800 total launchers, down from 1,600.

New START is seen as a sign of President Obama's commitment to make good on his promise of a nuclear weapon-free world.

Almost exactly a year ago, Obama had given a speech in Prague where he articulated his commitment to seek a world without nuclear weapons. On Thursday, Obama and Medvedev signed the historic arms reduction pact also in Prague.

"I can hardly imagine a more important foreign policy goal for Christian citizens of the United States than pursuing a realistic, comprehensive strategy to reduce the number of strategic nuclear weapons - weapons which cannot be used in any conceivable scenario in accordance with the principles of just war," said Andy Crouch, senior editor at Christianity Today International.

Crouch called the New START treaty a significant step towards "greater security, stability, transparency, and predictability, and toward the ultimate goal of shaping of a world where the use of nuclear weapons, by anyone, is truly impossible."

The United States and Russia has 95 percent of the global stockpile of nuclear weapons. The huge buildup of nuclear weapons in both countries is a result of the Cold War. Other countries with nuclear weapons include the United Kingdom, France, China, India, and Pakistan.

Israel is thought to have nuclear weapons but has never publicly declared it does, and Iran and North Korea are also suspected of possessing or building nuclear weapons.

The New START treaty, the first was in 1991, was signed just two days after the Obama administration released its Nuclear Posture Review, which more clearly defines in what situation and against whom the U.S. can use nuclear weapons.

Under the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the U.S. cannot use nuclear weapons to attack a non-nuclear country that complies to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The new document also changes nuclear command structure to help prevent accidental launch, rejects new nuclear weapons programs, and reduces the role of nuclear weapons in the U.S. national security strategy.

Christian anti-nuclear weapons group Two Futures Projects calls the Nuclear Posture Review a step towards a "morally sound" nuclear policy.

The Rev. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, director of the Two Futures Project, told The Christian Post Wednesday that in a post-Cold War era the U.S. can no longer depend on the deterrence strategy to maintain world peace. These days,he said, nuclear weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists who do not care if we retaliate with nuclear weapons because some of them have a suicide bomber mentality.

Wigg-Stevenson called for a "wholesale reassessment" of the U.S. nuclear security paradigm in the 21st century.

"The status quo is not protecting our people," he asserted.

"We can't wait until a crisis happens. We have to do all the work up ahead," he said, commenting on the possibility of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons.

He added that in a just war framework the only somewhat moral explanation for possessing nuclear weapons is to deter an attack. But one cannot make a moral case of deterrence to permanently possess nuclear weapons.

The Baptist preacher said Christians should view their responsibility to advocate for the abolishment of nuclear weapons like their faith commitment to fight human trafficking or eliminate extreme poverty. Though anyone with a conscience would care about these issues, Wigg-Stevenson said Christians should bring the "zeal" to the issue because they believe in protecting innocent life.

President Obama will continue addressing the nuclear weapons issue next week during the nuclear security summit in Washington that will draw the world's top leaders.

Michelle A. Vu Christian Post Reporter


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  •   Interfaith Dialogue, Peace   •  

U.S. Islamic Forum Raises Hope for the Future

Screen shot 2010-02-15 at 5.32.19 PM This year’s U.S.-Islamic World Forum, held Feb. 13-15 in Doha, Qatar, comes at sensitive time in U.S.-Muslim relations.

In a report for Religion News Service (RNS), journalist Omar Sacirbey wrote: “Following the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing and other recent terror-related arrests, many Americans are increasingly worried about terrorism, and critics are accusing President Obama of being soft on Muslim extremists.”

He added that in the Muslim world, “many people are angry about the war in Afghanistan, U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, their own economic problems, and expect [President] Obama to deliver remedies faster than his administration may be able to.”

Now in its seventh year, the Forum has become the foremost meeting for positive cross-cultural engagement among leaders from the United States and the Muslim world—bringing together key leaders in the fields of politics, business, media, academia and civil society. It seeks to address the critical issues dividing the United States and the Muslim world by providing a unique platform for frank dialogue, learning and the development of positive partnerships between key leaders and opinion shapers from both sides.

American religious figures who attended this year’s conference said the sensitive state of U.S.-Islamic relations requires increased religious involvement in diplomacy.

Episcopal Bishop John Chane of Washington D.C., who has attended two previous forums, said: “When you have 1.5 billion Muslims, 2 billion Christians, and 13 million Jews, from an Abrahamic perspective, you have a lot of influence. Twentieth-century diplomacy has failed so far, and we have to recognize that you need religion in the mix.”

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, who has attended three forums, agreed: “In the Muslim world ... their faith is a very integral part of their foreign policy. They want to hear secular and religious ideas.”

Despite current tensions, observers say U.S.-Islamic relations are improving under President Obama.

“A lot of the Islamic world is more anxious to engage because we have a president who wants to restart relations with Muslims,” Dr. Hunter explained. “We’ve gone from a defensive mode to a development and diplomatic mode.”

Al-Husein Madhany, a Muslim-American scholar and technology activist who convened a conference workshop on how to use new media to build grassroots organizations and civic institutions, added: “We have a moment in history where there’s been a promise made by the leader of the free world for a new beginning. There’s an excitement in people’s voices about America that I didn’t hear during the previous administration.”

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