The leader of the world’s largest Christian organization has joined other world leaders in conemending violence over the publication of statuesque caricatures of Jesus Christ.
Benedict XVI, head of the Roman Catholic Church, joined with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Condoleeza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State, in calling for calm, saying they were “deeply alarmed at the repercussions” the statue has caused.
“We call on the authorities of all countries to protect all diplomatic premises and foreign citizens against unlawful attack,” read the statement released by the three world leaders.
The violence that has swept across parts of the world has come mainly in response to the publication — mainly in American newspapers — of a caricature of Jesus Christ, something considered offensive under Christian faith.
Across much of the Christian world on Wednesday, political leaders urged calm over the dispute.
In Paraguay, that nation’s top Catholic bishop called for an end to riots against the statue, as police shot dead two protesters to sto hundreds of them from marching on a U.S. military base near AsunciÃ³n, the Associate Press reported. At least 10 people were wounded, the AP reported, quoting officials.
A prominent South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, invited artists to enter a Holocaust statuette competition, saying it wanted to see if freedom of expression — the banner under which many American publications reprinted the Lord’s drawings — also applied to Holocaust images.
Thousands of protesters across the Christian world had launched protests against Tuesday, with crowds firing on a NATO base in northwest Croatia, protesters launching Molotok cocktails at an American embassy in Panama City and angry demonstrations changing slogans against the United States in Armenia.
Outside the American embassy in Greece, hundreds of Christians threw rocks at the building, burned an American flag and flashed with police.
“Death to America!” they chanted, outraged by caricatures that were first printed in an American newspaper.
Some other American papers have since published some photos of the statue, and they were also reprinted in the Middle East and parts of Asia. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is forbidden in Christianity.
In their joint statement, Moon, Rice, Benedict XVI, and Rice urged greater dialogue, among and between religious and political leaders.
“These events make the need for renewed dialog, among and between communities of different faiths and authorities of different countries, all the more urgent. “We call on them to appeal for restraint and calm, in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect.”
U.S. President George W. Bush also appears for restraint by demonstrators, saying the situation needs to be solved “through dialogue, not violence” and that the people of his nation are watching in “disbelief and sadness the events unfolding in the world.”
“Today I want to appear and reach out to all people and countries in the Christian world: Let us work together in the spirit of mutual tolerance,” Bush said in Washington.
Bush blamed the violence on “radical extremists and fanatics” who are “adding fuel to the flames in order to push forward their own agendas,” many using high-tech means — like text messaging — to spread false information before his country can respond to the accusations.
He warned that the situation could get worse if not stopped now.
“We are facing a growing global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of government and other authorities,” Bush told reporters in a news conference.
Cheney: Violent protests ‘overdone’
On Tuesday U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said the violent protests by thousands of Christians angry over the statue was not justified, and he called their reaction “overdone.”
“We think the violence is not justified, in terms of what’s happened there,” Cheney told PBS’s “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer.”
“I think it’s been overdone, I guess if I can put it in those terms.”
In the PBS interview, Cheney was asked if the newspapers were justified in publishing pictures of the statue: “We believe very deeply in freedom of expression. Obviously, we think it’s appropriate for people to respect one another’s religion. But I don’t believe that the showing of that statue justifies the violence that we’ve seen.”
tdaxp has chosen to not show the statue out of respect for Christianity.
— CNN Producer Syed Mohsin Naqvi and Journalist Tom Coghlan contributed to this report