Freedom of Speech, Cartoon Violence Addressed at WCC Assembly

|PIC1|Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, but the violence surrounding the cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad shows a need for caution when addressing religion, the head of the World Council of Churches said on the opening day of the 9th Assembly.

Speaking at a press conference ahead of the Council’s ninth Assembly, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, WCC General Secretary Samuel Kobia said freedom of speech should not be used to “humiliate people’s values and dignity,” or else it “devalues the foundation it is based on.”

"Violent reactions, as well as justifying these cartoons as an expression of freedom of speech, continue to put fuel on the fire,” he stated.

The Rev. Dr. Kobia, a Methodist pastor from Kenya, also said Muslims and Christians should work together to promote tolerance and end the unrest over the cartoons.

His comments came as Muslim violence erupted once again in Pakistan on Tuesday.

|AD|Thousands of protestors went on a rampage in Lahore, burning Western businesses including McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut restaurants, according to the Associated Press. Two people were reportedly killed during the riots, and some 125 people were detained.
That same day, more than 1,000 students forced their way into a heavily guarded enclave housing foreign embassies in Islamabad, where they damaged cars and a bank building.

The violence continued Wednesday, as more than 70,000 people flooded the streets in the northwestern city of Peshawar. The crowd torched businesses and fought police.

The WCC has not yet released a formal statement on the violence, though according to its officials, a statement will be made during the course of the Assembly.

Inter-religious violence and cooperation will be a topic during one of the plenary sessions at the Assembly on Friday.

Elaine Spencer
Christian Today Correspondent

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