Muslim and Christian religious leaders on Tuesday condemned the recent incidents of desecration of the Holy Quran by individuals in Sweden and Denmark and demanded the European countries to stop allowing such provocative actions carried out in the name of freedom of expression.
Addressing a joint press conference with Pakistan Ulema Council Chairman Allama Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi at the Diocese of Raiwind, Church of Pakistan’s President Bishop Azad Marshall said that Pakistani Christians denounce the latest incident of burning of the Holy Quran in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Last month an Iraqi refugee desecrated the Quran in Sweden and now the Danish government has allowed two others to do the same in front of the Iraqi embassy. These actions cannot be condoned by followers of any faith. We urge the European governments to reconsider their policies in the larger interest of peace and interfaith harmony across the world,” he said.
“Freedom of speech and expression should never be used as a means to despise others and spread hatred. Such actions are committed by individuals who have no association with any religion and they do this to sow discord and unrest in communities,” he added. The senior church leader said that the leaderships of both the global Catholic and Protestant churches have also condemned acts of Quran desecration.
“Head of the Catholic church, Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Anglican Consultative Council’s Secretary General Bishop Anthony Poggo have categorically said that the church does not endorse such spiteful actions.
“We always have and will continue to raise our voices against religiously provocative actions,” he said.
The bishop also expressed concern over the desecration of the cross during protests organised by religious parties against the incidents in Europe.
“We understand the anguish and pain of our Muslim countrymen and stand with them in solidarity but the manner in which our holy symbol was insulted during demonstrations has hurt us deeply. Such reactions are uncalled for and should be condemned by Muslim leaders,” he said.
Marshall also highlighted the situation in Sargodha city where some elements were targeting Christians after blasphemous posters were pasted on the walls of a mosque by unknown persons.
“Christians in Sargodha are living in fear as police is randomly raiding homes in Maryam Town and picking up men for questioning. No Christian can even think of committing blasphemy against Islam’s prophet and we believe that some individuals or groups are stoking religious tensions there with some vested interest. We urge the Punjab government and police to conduct a transparent investigation and ensure protection of the Christian community,” he said.
Addressing the media, Allama Ashrafi demanded that the European Union and United Nations take immediate notice of incidents of Quran desecration and enact laws to respect the sanctities of all divine religions at the global level.
“Islam and all divine religions promote peace, security, moderation, and tolerance. The teachings of any religion do not endorse violence or extremism, and those who spread violence and extremism do not represent any religion,” he said.
Catholic Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Shaw, Church of Pakistan Faisalabad Diocese Bishop Aleem Anwar and Bishop of Sialkot Alvin Samuel were also present at the press conference.