Terry Jones is a pastor of a church in Gainesville, Florida that has a penchant for getting himself into some controversial situations. His latest line-stepping took place on Saturday, when he and 20 other people burned copies of the Koran, the Muslim equivalent of the Bible. The group also burnt likenesses of the prophet Mohammed, considered ultimately sacred by the Islamic faith. His reasons: he hopes that Iran will consider releasing an imprisoned Christian clergyman in Iran.
Youcef Nadarkhani was the pastor of a small Christian community that called itself the Church of Iran. He was arrested by Iranian authorities in 2009 and sentenced to death. This is possible because according to Islamic sharia law, the punishment for someone converting from Islam to another religion is death. Nadarkhani converted to Christianity at the age of 19 years.
Common Sense Conspiracy reported on his situation previously, and how many countries spoke out against the death sentence. The United States, Germany, Great Britain, and France all condemned the idea of giving someone the death sentence. The Iranian version of the Supreme Court overturned his case and got him a retrial, but when the case was retried, no verdict was released to the public. Most fear that the ruling was death again and the death sentence could be carried out anytime now.
The Pentagon asked Pastor Jones to not go through with his plans because it would only endanger soldiers in Afghanistan and other Muslim nations. Jones did not heed their warnings, and the event was broadcast on YouTube with the hopes that it would reach all corners of the world, and mainly Iran.
The problem with something like this is what message it really sends. While Pastor Jones may think this will get some serious attention, it is hugely unlikely that Iran would change their mind about this Christian pastor because their own religion, the same one that has convinced them they should put this man to death in the first place, was ran through the mud by an American preacher. Obviously, Christians don’t put a lot of value on the Koran, but it is absolutely wrong for any Christian or American to want to burn and desecrate a book that is considered holy by another religion. After all, Christians wouldn’t want to see Iranians burning copies of the Holy Bible in the street. No doubt that has happened to, but the entire doctrine that Christianity is based on would never suggest that burning the Koran should be done to attract attention or get revenge for other wrongs.
To the Muslim people, burning an image of Mohammed would be no different than the Christians would perceive the burning of an image of Jesus Christ. Our nation was founded on the idea of having a place where religious persecution is not, and for a Christian pastor to burn the holy documents of another religion is so against what he should be teaching. Sure, the death sentence handed down for Nadarkhani is preposterous, and we all wish there was something we could do to help him. But he was a Christian minister in Iran! What did he think was going to happen? It might be brace to take Christianity into the borders of Iran, but it might not be smart. And neither is burning the Koran, for any reason.