London reaction (Photo from catholiclondoner)

Christian churches in the Middle East are vandalized, a Catholic nun in Africa is killed and Muslims have demanded that the pope convert to Islam – all because he read a quote from a medieval text that described Islam as “evil and inhuman.”

The pope has issued an apology for even referencing the historic text, emphasized that those views are not his, but still many in the Islamic world are demanding blood.

A new group called “The sword of Islam” contacted reporters and said it had fired gunshots at a Christian church in the Middle East during a demonstration over the comments.

“We want to make it clear that if the pope does not appear on TV and apologize for his comments, we will blow up all of Gaza’s churches,” the group said in a report.

The controversy arose a few days ago while Pope Benedict XVI was speaking in Germany, and he referred to the conclusions of Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, in which he made the reference to Islam being violent.

The pope, according to a Vatican statement, was simply reflecting on the “theme of the relationship between religion and violence in general, and to conclude with a clear and radical rejection of the religious motivation for violence, from whatever side it may come.”

But Muslims reacted to what they apparently perceived as an attack on their religion, and started vandalizing Middle East Christian churches, with seven so far sustaining varying levels of destruction.

In Africa, a nun was shot and killed, with indications the attack may have been a reaction to the statements.

And now, a report in the Jerusalem Post said that Muslim religious leaders in the Gaza Strip are warning the pope that he must “accept” Islam if he wanted to live in peace.

London reaction (Photo from catholiclondoner)

One Muslim cleric, Imad Hamto, said the pope must “repent and ask for forgiveness” and Hamto referred to a phrase taken from letters sent by the founder of Islam to the chiefs of tribes in his times – when he reportedly urged them to convert to Islam in order to keep their lives.

While President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who himself has publicly called for the destruction of Israel and has denied the Holocaust without significant reaction, suggested that the pope has satisfactorily “modified” his remarks, others said they did not agree.

“Either apologize or don’t come,” read banners at a protest in Turkey, where the pope is scheduled to visit in November. And in Libya, a son of Col. Muammar el-Gadhafi said the pope needs to change.

“If this person were really someone reasonable, he would not agree to remain at his post one minute but would convert to Islam immediately,” the son, Mohammad Gadhafi, said.

The New York Times reported that the pope had issued condolences to the family of Sister Leonella Sgorbati, who was shot and killed in Somalia with her bodyguard.

“In repeating a firm condemnation of all forms of violence, his holiness the pope hopes that the blood shed by a such a faithful follower of the Gospel will become a seed of hope to build an authentic brotherhood between peoples,” said a Vatican statement.

The Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation said it plans a joint statement later with Catholic organizations over the pope’s statements.

In the blog world, the “catholiclondoner” posted a number of photographs indicating that Muslims in the United Kingdom perhaps are not ready to move past the comments.

“Thought I’d refrain from posting anything substantial about his uproar …” he wrote. “Unfortunately after Mass today at Westminster Cathedral it was shoved in my face.”

He said about 100 Islamists were chanting slogans in front of the church, including “Pope Benedict go to Hell,” and “Pope Benedict you will pay, the Muja Hadeen are coming your way.”

“It was a pretty nasty demonstration,” he said.

“You have also given a witness to the hypocrisy of those Muslims who complain about being insulted on the one hand while giving grievous offence on the other. Well done,” said one comment from “dunadan” on the Londoner’s blog

“As a British citizen, I really hope that our government will now do something about the threat from Islam and Islamism – not just in words, but in deeds,” said another.

“God Bless you brother in the Lord and friend for being a true witness to your faith. I am not surprised that there is protest. The pope simply cited the historic record. The Muslims have to face up to their history, they cannot forever live in deniel (sic),” said bigcatlady.

“You have helped expose the hatred and hypocrisy rotting beneath the polished ‘Religion of Peace’ fa?ade,” said emlin. “They feel free to curse and insult the Pope – but if you speak the truth about their beloved war-mongering Mohammed, well then a little jihad should help you feel the real peace of islam.”

Pakistan’s Parliament also approved a resolution criticizing the pope for his “derogatory” remarks. And Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the comments were “ugly.”

The words that the pope quoted were: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

A report at said it traced the development of the furor and found a series of media reports contributing to the situation.

The report said the day after the speech, there was almost no reaction. A day later, however, there was a headline, “Pope’s speech stirs Muslim anger.”

As that headline spread through the Muslim world, the report said, the furor became real.

“On Sunday, Toronto-based columnist, David Warren, wrote in the Ottawa Citizen on the media-instigated uproar that has led to retaliatory attacks in Israel against Christian churches and clergy and the murder of a nun in Somalia,” the report said.

“By manipulating the event, Warren says, the BBC was ‘having a little mischief. The kind of mischief that is likely to end with Catholic priests and faithful butchered around the Muslim world.'”


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