Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron joined with a group of religious leaders in opposing a Florida pastor's plan to hold an anti-Muslim rally during Holy Week.
“It is possible for an interfaith community of believers to live in peace and liberty, and to do so while promoting social justice and moral values,” the archbishop said in an April 21 appearance at the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan. “May we never let the negative voices of the few deter us from working together toward these worthy goals on behalf of the many.”
Pastor Terry Jones, whose burning of a Quran in March caused international controversy and prompted violent retaliation in Muslim countries, had planned to hold a rally outside the Islamic center on Good Friday. Jones' demonstration was scheduled to demonstrate in the evening in front of the center. He announced that the protest would be against "jihad, sharia, and the radicalization of Muslims in America."
More than 700 members and supporters of the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit held a vigil outside the center, in opposition to Jones' plan.
“Mutual respect and a common purpose should not just be the hallmarks of relations between Catholics and Muslims,” Archbishop Vigneron said at the rally. “Rather, they they should be the hallmarks of relations between peoples of all faiths living together in our community.” He praised the heavily Muslim city of Dearborn as an example of peaceful coexistence.
“We have an opportunity to show the nation and the world that it is possible for peoples of many different faiths to respect one another and to foster mutual understanding. It is possible for an interfaith community of believers to live in peace and liberty, and to do so while promoting social justice and moral values.”
He cited the Second Vatican Council's document “Nostra Aetate,” which urges cooperation between Christians and those who practice other religions. “The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council,” he noted, “explain the goals that Catholics and Muslims should work toward in society” – including “mutual understanding for the benefit of all men,” and peace between their respective religions.
“As a Christian leader,” he stated, “I am committed to this respectful attitude and to these worthy goals.” Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini, a scholar and religious leader at the Islamic Center of America, said local Muslims were “indebted to our Christian friends who have showed us absolute support.”
The show of support for Muslims, however, was not what ultimately caused Pastor Jones' planned demonstration to be canceled. City officials denied him permission to hold the public demonstration, and used an 1846 law to require him to post a one-dollar “peace bond,” as a pledge to the city that he would not cause a disturbance.
Because he refused to pay the bond, Jones was arrested along with his assistant, Wayne Sapp, who is said to have carried out Jones' previous threats to burn a Quran during a March 2011 mock-trial of the book. The two men spent a brief time in jail on Friday evening, and were released after someone else reportedly paid the bond on their behalf.
Jones described the incident as a “mockery of the judicial process” and a “total violation of our constitutional rights.” He also stated that he was considering suing the city of Dearborn, and holding another protest outside its city hall on April 29.