Christians in Pakistan, fearful of retribution from Muslims outraged by a US pastor’s plans to burn the Qur’an, say his apparent decision to put the plan “on hold” is an answer to prayer.
Police chiefs have been under pressure over the past few days to tighten security across the country in response to Muslim fury sparked by Florida Pastor Terry Jones’ ‘International burn a Koran’ day, timed to mark the anniversary of 9/11.
In an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (CAN) on Friday, Sept. 10, Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad warned that the proposed Qur’an burning would have dire consequences for the local Christian community.
Speaking by telephone from Faisalabad, Bishop Coutts said, “Muslims have huge respect for the Qur’an and there is always the risk that the emotional reaction of people here would be to hit out at the nearest Christian.”
Amid increased tension among Christians concerned about possible retribution, Bishop Coutts held a series of meetings late into the night with police chiefs and Muslim leaders to stave off the threat of possible violence against his flock.
But, after hearing that the Qur’an burning was now ‘on hold,’ Bishop Coutts said, “It is a relief to hear what has now happened.”
“We need to remember the difference between talking about burning the Qur’an and actually carrying it out.”
“If the pastor carried it out, it would light a touch paper, potentially causing a lot of damage.”
He also said. “If he were to burn the Qur’an, we would have to pay the price.”
Noting widespread anti-US feeling in Pakistan, he compared the planned Qur’an burning to a Protestant walking into a Catholic church at the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland and desecrating the Blessed Sacrament.
He said his concerns were heightened by increased Muslim sensitivity and religiosity coinciding with the Islamic festival of Eid, which has just begun.
Bishop Coutts spoke to ACN minutes after a meeting with Faisalabad Christian leaders at which they had agreed to reach out to disgruntled Muslims by stepping up plans to greet Islamic leaders to mark Eid complete with banners and gifts.