The repercussions following the accidental burning of the Koran in Afghanistan have been extreme, violent and have put Western citizens in extreme danger.
Whilst the act itself is reprehensible, it was what it was, an ill considered accident, The consequences have been brutal. I can only wonder, that in asking our respect of Islam – which we willingly give – we, in return, can expect a mutual respect of Christianity.
From Vatican Insider
“To show respect for religious feelings is the key to win the hearts of the Afghan people. It’s a very important factor which all western powers and international operators should keep in mind” these were the words used by the Jesuit Father Stanley Fernandes SJ , director of “Jesuit Refugee Service” in South Asia in an interview with the Vatican news agency Fides when commenting on the mass protests which followed the news of Korans being set alight by some American soldiers. On the fifth day of anti American demonstrations in various cities of Afghanistan, the UN was also targeted. Since the beginning of the violent protests, about thirty people have been killed.
The Jesuits have been present in Afghanistan for 7 years, they are dedicated to humanitarian activities and are active in education and professional development. Father Fernandes, spends long periods of time in this country. After a recent visit to Kabul, he spoke with Fides saying “The situation is critical. After the incident of the burning of Korans, people are outraged because it is an episode that hurts religious feelings, an issue that can ignite the people. There is no justification for violence, but this is what happens if one touches religious matters. The official apology on behalf of the U.S. has arrived, but I think it will take time before the situation returns to calm.”
The Jesuit continued “ I don’t think there is the risk of a religious war against the West, but incidents like this, when Westerners hurt the feelings of the Afghans, do not help build confidence and a peaceful atmosphere. In these cases, then, the instinct of the crowd prevails, giving the floodgates to violence”.
“When one works in the Afghan context, where Islam is the prevalent religion” remarked Fr. Fernandes “ it is essential to operate with deep respect for the culture and religion of the local population. In these cases, the relationship between international forces and local people is very delicate. A fragile balance is established and we must therefore pay close attention to the sensitivity and to the local context in order to guard it.”
With regards to the experience of the Jesuits, Father Fernandes declared, “We build good relations with the local people, we try to help them in their development, respecting their feelings, working in the humanitarian field and in education. We have been there for 7 years and the people greatly appreciate us. In our experience, the people of Afghanistan are open and tolerant and appreciate our help to improve their social situation and wellbeing. We hope that, thanks to many people of good will among the Afghans and thanks to the international organizations on the ground, the violence will end and the situation will soon return to normal.