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NCC praises ‘disciplined restraint’ over cartoons
and calls for a ‘dialogue of civilizations’
 

New York, February 13, 2006 – The National Council of Churches USA said Monday it stood in solidarity with North American Islamic organizations who “exercised disciplined restraint and advocated diplomacy and education” over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad. 

The Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, Associate General Secretary of the NCC for Interfaith Relations, also called for a “dialogue of civilizations” involving religious leaders and leaders of political, academic, media and business sectors of society.  

The dialogue, Premawardhana said, would provide “a common table at which we can educate each other about those parts of our faith and life that are most holy and significant. It will also provide the opportunity for people of different faiths to come together on values that unite us.” 

Premawardhana said the NCC “strongly affirmed” freedom of the press but was “deeply disturbed by the inability of the press to understand and respect the sensitivities of religious people.” 

“In the context of a widespread and growing Islamophobia in both Europe and the United States,” Premawardhana said, “the offense is not only an affront to deeply held religious convictions, but an irresponsible case of cultural stereotyping.” 

Premawardhana also supported the right of Muslims to protest but “strenuously condemned” the violence that has accompanied protests over the cartoons. 

The full text of the NCC statement follows: 

NCC Advocates Dialogue of Civilizations 

As the worldwide ecumenical community gathers for the General Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil, under the theme “God in Your Grace, Transform the World,” the National Council of Churches USA joins in that same prayer, particularly as the intractable dispute over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad escalated last week into violent protests in many Islamic countries. 

We stand in solidarity with North American Islamic Organizations who have exercised disciplined restraint and advocated diplomacy and education. These organizations include the Islamic Society of North America, Council for American Islamic Relations, Muslim Public Affairs Council, Islamic Circle of North America and the ASMA Society. 

We strongly affirm the freedom of the press, but are deeply disturbed by the inability of the press to understand and respect the sensitivities of religious people. In the context of a widespread and growing Islamophobia in both Europe and the United States, the offense is not only an affront to deeply held religious convictions, but an irresponsible case of cultural stereotypingWe applaud the Norwegian press for its courage to offer an apology to the world-wide Muslim community and lift up their example for others to follow.   

While we strongly affirm the right of Muslim people to protest, we strenuously condemn the violence that has often accompanied such demonstrations, particularly on Danish embassies and are grieved by the lives that were lost in the violence. We are grateful that the large demonstration in London over the weekend was non-violent.           

Many have called this controversy a foreshadowing of a “clash of civilizations.” The National Council of Churches USA, representing the mainstream Christian community in the United States, a community that attempts to live out our deeply held values of justice and peace among all peoples, calls instead for a “dialogue of civilizations.” 

A dialogue of civilizations will bring together not only religious leaders, but political, academic, media and business sectors of society. While acknowledging the deep differences among us, such a dialogue will encourage participants to a common table at which we can educate each other about those parts of our faith and life that are most holy and significant. It will also provide the opportunity for people of different faiths to come together on values that unite us. 

We support the Global Dialogue of Civilizations initiated at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in 2004 and the recent call by the Philippine government to institutionalize interfaith dialogue at the United Nations. Such initiatives, we believe, will help inculcate new rules of civic behavior respectful of other cultures and religions in the growing pluralism and, indeed, interaction of cultures and religions in most metropolitan areas around the world.

Contact NCC News: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2252, or Leslie Tune, 202-544-2350


 

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