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Council of Churches leaders
New York, January 15, 2010 -- The National Council of Churches USA has sent messages of solidarity and support to leaders of the Coptic Orthodox Church following attacks on Christians in Egypt.
In Egypt, where the Coptic Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas on January 7 (following the old Julian and Coptic calendars), seven people were murdered following a midnight Divine Liturgy in Nag Hamadi, Qena in Upper Egypt. According to press reports, riots then erupted during the funeral processions for six of the seven victims of the massacre. Six of the seven victims were Coptic Christians; the seventh victim was a Muslim.
In a message sent to H.G. Bishop Serapion of Los Angeles, Coptic Orthodox Church, and to Subdeacon Bishoy M. Mikhail, Ecumenical Officer of the Church, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon wrote: "On behalf of your brothers and sisters in the National Council of Churches, I want to assure you of our prayers following the death of Coptic Orthodox Christians this week in Egypt. May God receive them into glory, and may God grant peace to our violent and fragmented world." Kinnamon also lamented the death of the Muslim victim.
Other church leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, also condemned the violence against Christians in Egypt.
Kinnamon condemned the attacks as a flagrant denial of the love of God as testified to in the New Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures and the Qur'an. "Violence in God's name is not only an obvious corruption of Scripture, it demonstrates an appalling disregard for the loving and just God who commands us to live together in peace," Kinnamon said. "What is especially painful is that this recent violence took place during a celebration of the birth of the one who Christians call the Prince of Peace and who Muslims call a holy prophet."
New York, January 15, 2010 -- Attacks on Christian churches in Malaysia following a December 31 high court ruling that non-Muslims are entitled to use the name "Allah" to refer to God have been condemned by the National Council of Churches USA.
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC Senior Program Director for Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations, said: "It is particularly distressing, in light of the Christian-Muslim exchange around 'A Common Word,' a Muslim letter to Christians affirming our shared commitments to loving God and loving our neighbor, that such violence can be perpetrated in God's name when our common roots would tell us differently."
Arsonists struck three churches and a convent school early Sunday, January 10, and black paint was splashed on another church. This followed the firebombing of four churches on Friday and Saturday. No injuries were reported, and only one church, Metro Tabernacle in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, had extensive damage.
Kireopoulos said, "Christians and Muslims have learned in dialogue that theological understanding leads to better relations between faith groups. Part of our growing understanding of one another is knowing that Christians and Muslims both call upon God as Allah, a fact that has been true for centuries in the Middle East region where our two faiths began."
The attacks stem from Muslim anger over a court ruling that overturned a government ban on the use of the word Allah to denote the Christian God.
Though that usage is common in many countries, in Malaysia where Arabic- and Malay-language Bibles describe Jesus as the “son of Allah” many Muslims say the name belongs exclusively to them.
NCC News contact: Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228 (office), 646-853-4212 (cell) , firstname.lastname@example.org
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