Interfaith relations—and tensions—quickly took center stage at the opening of the World Council of Churches’ ninth assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, as Christian leaders grappled with Muslim rage over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Methodist minister Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the international ecumenical body with some 340 member churches and denominations in more than 100 countries, told a news conference that freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, but “when it is used to humiliate people’s values and dignity, it devalues the foundation it is based on.”
Kobia said Christians and Muslims must work together to “put out the fire” created by the publication in a Danish newspaper of 12 cartoons ridiculing Muhammad. They have since been republished in newspapers and on Web sites in Europe and the United States. Islam forbids depictions of the prophet on the grounds that they could lead to idolatry.