As of this writing, Rev. Terry Jones has “suspended, not canceled” his plans to burn copies of the Quran on Saturday evening, September 11.
The attention given to Jones turned what would have been one small front-yard bonfire in our neighborhood into a symbol for the whole world of anti-Islam religious intolerance. Jones’s plans came to represent in many eyes the anti-Islamic bigotry, Islamophobia, and general resistance to diversity of the entire Western World.
Because the gesture of burning the Quran is such a powerful symbol, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville along with many other people and groups in our area recognized that our response to that gesture was also powerful -- and vitally important. We understood, as Americans, as Floridians, and as people of faith, that our capacity to answer burning hatred with the cool waters of understanding would be judged by our response to this act of intolerance in our midst. It has been truly heartening to see the interfaith community in the Gainesville area come together to affirm mutual respect, to pray together, to answer division with unity, and to respond to belligerence with commitments to peace.
Whether Rev. Jones actually burns copies of the Quran on Saturday or not, we remain committed to standing together; standing in for all people everywhere who seek a world of mutual understanding, peace, and justice; standing against intolerance; standing on the side of love.
As Unitarian Universalists, we are called to stand in witness of the faith tradition we inherit, to embody now our heritage of freedom, reason and acceptance. And we invite friends of tolerance from all faith traditions or none to stand with us.
Friday evening, September 10. I encourage attendance and participation at the Gathering for Peace, Understanding, and Hope at Trinity United Methodist Church. From 6 PM until 9 PM there will be a number of “stations” to visit, and speakers, for about 5 minutes each, every half-hour. This is an important opportunity to meet with others across faiths and build the peace and understanding that comes with relationship.
Saturday, September 11. Meet at 5:30 PM at UUFG (4225 NW 34th St). We will organize there, and, in light of any newest developments, make decisions about carpooling to places to demonstrate for peace, be in solidarity, and stand on the side of understanding and love. Wear your "Co-exist" or Unitarian Universalist t-shirt; bring signs. There may be a Peace March in the neighborhood of Rev. Jones’ church. In any case, we will (also) be participating in the Candlelight Vigil for Peace and Unity hosted by the Gainesville Muslim Initiative. This event comprises a number of actions including feeding the homeless (5:00–6:00 PM), a blood drive, book drive, and food drive (5:00–7:00 PM). Various community and faith leaders, including me, begin speaking at 7:05, and the candlelight vigil is from 8:00 to 8:15.
Sunday morning 11:00 AM Worship Service, September 12.
Our annual Ingathering Water Communion will take on the added significance of differing faiths as well as individuals flowing together into community. We'll have readings from the Quran and explore together the path to a world of peace.
Unitarian faith calls for standing for unity in love amidst diversity of thought. Universalist faith calls for standing for inclusion of all within the circle of equal concern and respect.