World Council of Churches: Prevent Free Speech

You knew this was coming. From Olav Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches:

The film The Innocence of Muslims is gratuitously offensive to Muslims and to the faith of Islam, and I regret that it has been made. The film was produced and distributed by particular individuals who are not in any way representative of the attitudes of any mainstream religious group, nor indeed of particular countries or governments. This incident shows how important it is to prevent incitement to racial or religious hatred. I believe such an insult to the heart of the Muslim faith is an insult to all peoples of faith. Christian and Muslims need to stand together in condemning such insults. [Emphasis added.]

At the same time the appropriate response to such a pernicious film is not the violence taking place in parts of the Middle East that we have read and heard about over the last few days.

Such a response, apart from the suffering it causes to innocent individuals and communities, merely plays into the hands of those who wish to foment tension. In the relationships of dialogue the World Council of Churches has had over many years, we have confirmed our commitment to work together with our Muslim partners for justice and peace. So we believe that it is tragic if the reactions provoked by this film were in turn to lead to negative stereotyping of Muslims and an increase in Islamophobia in the western world.

In my role as General Secretary I have a special concern for the safety and well-being of Christians who are living as minorities in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere. It is vitally important that the relevant authorities ensure that such potentially vulnerable groups are protected and do not become the target of violence by misguided individuals reacting to the actions of those far away.

Please note two things: 1) Tveit doesn’t say that it would be an act of Christian virtue for people like those behind the film to refrain from making such swill. No, they must be prevented from doing so. Here in the States, we call that censorship, and associate it with dictatorships. 2) Notice that he doesn’t say that the violence is wrong. It causes suffering to innocents, and it “plays into the hands” of those who are provoking Muslims. He also refers to those who have assassinated four American diplomatic personnel and assaulted American (and now a German) embassies as “misguided individuals reacting” to the film, despite the fact that the Libyan action, at least, was obviously a well-planned terrorist operation, rather than some kind of spontaneous protest that got out of hand.

In other words, it’s the World Council doing what it does best.

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