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Controversial Cartoons :: Asia Lutheran Communion :: Communication Creates Communion

Topic: 5.Geneva

Controversial Cartoons

Posted by: Sally on Feb 12, 2006 – 05:42 AM | Read 4854 times

LWF Denounces Publication of Controversial Cartoons, Calls for Increased Pursuit of Justice with Other Faiths
General Secretary Noko Says Freedom of Expression Must Be Exercised Responsibly

GENEVA, 10 February 2006 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has called for increased commitment to the pursuit of justice and reconciliation with people of other faiths, following controversy and protests in several parts of the world surrounding the publication in Nordic and European newspapers of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

While denouncing both the publication of the cartoons and the ensuing violent reactions, LWF General Secretary, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko says the crisis around this issue should not be falsely presented as a conflict between secular rights and religious values.

In a statement released today, Noko affirms that the caricatures at the heart of this controversy are "genuinely and deeply offensive to Muslim sentiments and religious values," and that Muslims around the world are "entitled to protest loudly and vigorously at the provocation and insult to their religion."

He however notes that while freedom of expression is a universal legal right, it must be exercised wisely and responsibly according to ethical principles. The wholesale violence in which some of the protesters have engaged cannot be condoned, either politically or religiously, Noko says.

Such violence, he argues, does not implicate all Muslims anymore than the actions of an "insensitive few" in Denmark implicate the entire Danish nation.

The LWF general secretary joins Palestinian Lutheran Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan in condemning the "defamation of all religious symbols, prophets and holy writings because it only provokes offense and builds walls of hatred."

In a February 9 statement on the cartoon crisis, Younan, head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) also denounces all violent acts that threaten others as "intolerable and unacceptable."

Noko, referring to the ELCJHL statement, urges other people to emulate Palestinian Christians and Muslims, who "have learned to live as neighbors, displaying respect for each others’ beliefs and traditions – not due to legal obligation, but out of respect and care for the neighbor." (348 words)

The full text of the LWF statement follows:

Statement of the Lutheran World Federation on the Publication of Caricatures of Prophet Mohammed

The crisis that has emerged surrounding the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed*and *the spreading and sometimes violent reaction to them – represents a failure to exercise responsibility. However, it has been falsely and sometimes mischievously presented as a conflict between secular rights and religious values, or worse still, as a "clash of civilizations."

No one can doubt that the caricatures at the heart of this controversy are genuinely and deeply offensive to Muslim sentiments and religious values. Their repeated publication leads to the perception that they are published not innocently but with the intention to provoke. It must be clearly affirmed that freedom of expression is a legal right of universal application. But all legal rights must be exercised not only within the limits of the law, but also wisely and responsibly according to ethical principles. The freedom of expression was not exercised wisely and responsibly in this case, but recklessly and dangerously.

Muslims around the world are understandably outraged by this provocation and insult to their religion. Muslims offended by these caricatures are perfectly entitled to protest loudly and vigorously. It is very regrettable that the Danish authorities did not respond in a timely and appropriate manner to the complaints first conveyed by Danish Muslims. A response at that time may have done much to forestall the chain reaction of rage that we now see. Nonetheless, the wholesale violence in which some of the protesters have engaged cannot be condoned, either politically or religiously. But just as the actions of an insensitive or provocative few in Denmark do not implicate either the entire Danish nation or the West as a whole, neither does the violence of some of the protestors implicate all Muslims.

As Bishop Munib Younan, Lutheran Bishop in Jerusalem, has declared, "We condemn the defamation of all religious symbols, prophets and holy writings because it only provokes offense and builds walls of hatred," and "We also condemn all violent acts that threaten others…as intolerable and unacceptable." He has written about the small significant ways in which Palestinian Christians and Muslims have learned to live as neighbors, displaying respect to each others’ beliefs and traditions – not due to legal obligation, but out of respect and care for the neighbor. It is an example many others could learn from.

At the LWF Tenth Assembly, we acknowledged that in our world today "religions too often are used by political forces to divide people and fuel conflict," and that therefore "it is crucial that we pursue justice and reconciliation with those of other faiths. Reconciliation is central in the gospel we proclaim: in Christ, God has reconciled the whole creation. In this sense, dialogue that furthers such reconciliation is one of the important ways of carrying out God’s mission." Let us hold fast to this vision and understanding. Coexistence and dialogical cooperation in addressing the problems that confront us all, regardless of faith affiliation, remains the only path towards peace in our fractured and troubled world. Faced with this current crisis, our commitment to that path should be redoubled, not reduced.

Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko
General Secretary
The Lutheran World Federation

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