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An Open Letter To Pastor Terry Jones

Dear Pastor Terry Jones-

I understand that on September 11th, you plan on carrying out the act of burning Qur'ans with your local church. Do you seriously realize the significance of the act you're about to carry out? This will create all sorts of complications and security concerns for our troops in Afghanistan. This will cause and fuel much emotion throughout our own country as well. You say that you and your church plan on carrying firearms to the event, in the case your lives are threatened. Do you realize that there could be a shootout at your event? You could die, as well as members of your congregation, for burning Qur'ans. Is this something you're willing to do? Put your own congregation's lives on the line for your personal hatred towards Islam?

I would ask if this is the Christian thing to do, but I already saw an interview of you on ABC News, and know what your response would be. Except, what does it mean when Jesus Christ said:

12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

Or again, in Luke:

31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise

Even a lawyer asked Jesus what he should do to obtain eternal life:

25 ¶ And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

Most people, Christians and non-Christians alike, are familiar with this law knows as the "Golden Rule". Even Islam, the religion you hate so much, teaches that a true Muslim must do good to others, and treat them as they would want to be treated. To be a Christian, that is, to follow the teachings of Jesus, means to actually follow the teachings of Jesus. Jesus never advocated war. He never advocated hate. He taught that you should

44. ... Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.

and further that

29. ... unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.

Do you understand what Christianity is about? Do you really?

It's unfortunate that the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon happened on September 11th, 2001. Not only did America mourn, but the world. The Council for American Islamic Relations, and other Islamic organizations, raised money and provided countless acts of service to help provide relief for those families that lost loved ones in the attacks. World leaders, including including those of Islamic faith, expressed their sincere condolences to our country. It's been 9 years since the attacks, all of the rebuilding, all of the love and charity from others, all of the support from so many, you are willing to put on the line, for your own personal gratification and hate.

Even putting religion aside, I'm a member of the Ubuntu community. Ubuntu was chosen because of the philosophy it stands for and the meaning it conveys. It's a philosophy everyone should stand for, and I'm proud to be a member of a community where such a high regard for human dignity and respect is held.

One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.

- Archbishop Desmod Tutu

This past month, as a Christian, I've been fasting with Islam the entire month of Ramadan, from dawn to sunset. It's been a difficult task, but I did it primarily to raise awareness that Islam is not a religion of terror. I'm fasting, because of prejudiced people like you and the radical, extreme actions they take and the views they hold. I've read the Qur'an, now four times. I know what it teaches. I know the basic tenets and beliefs of Islam. I have many, many Muslim friends. I understand what Islam stands for, and it's not the message you are trying to convey. I hope, somehow, that my actions have an effect on others, and it would mean the world to me if they somehow changed your mind.

I know you're upset. I know you have a lot of fiery emotions that have boiled over. You want to make a stand against terrorism, and you want to be heard. Well, you have been heard. You have had the spotlight. You have the world listening. Our own government is urging you to stop, and think what ramifications your act of burning Qur'ans could have on the American public, and the world stage at large. Don't go through with it. Don't put lives in danger, because of your feeling towards Islam. Your act of burning Qur'ans is no different than the terrorist act of those who flew planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Stand on higher ground.

If you do decide to continue with your act of terror, then I hope it rains in Gainesville, Florida, hard enough to prevent you from building your bonfire. Further, I hope that no one's lives are taken by your decision to burn the Qur'an, both at your church, and around the world. Step down Pastor Jones, step down.

Sincerely, a loving Christian, praying for you,
Aaron Toponce

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