Not to blame for UN deaths: Quran-burning pastor

A mob enraged by Quran burning attacked UN office in Afghan city, killing 7.

Updated: Apr 02, 2011, 13:21 PM IST

Gainesville: An evangelical pastor whose church burned a Quran last month said he was "devastated" but did not feel responsible for the killings on Friday of seven UN workers in a violent protest in Afghanistan.

"We are devastated by that information, that news," Terry Jones, the head of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, said. "We don`t feel responsible for that."

The United Nations said four Nepalese guards, three foreign UN workers, and several protesters were killed when a mob enraged by the Quran burning attacked the UN compound in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

Jones presided over the burning of the Islamic holy book on March 20 at his Florida church, an act he had long threatened despite warnings it would put American troops and others in Afghanistan in danger.

"The radical element of Islam takes that as an excuse to promote their violent activities," Jones said on Friday. "What we would like to see is the United States government standing up, the UN standing up.”

"It`s time to stop ignoring the violence going on in Muslim countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan," he said.

Jones said the killings "won`t change anything we`re doing" but added that there`s no plan to burn another Quran.

"We have, right now, no plans, no," he said when asked if he will burn another Quran.

"It is not part of our agenda to go around the country burning Qurans."

Don Northrup founded the church "in the living room of his home" in 1986 in Gainesville, according to the church`s website. Members raised USD 150,000 to build the church in its current location.

Northrup died in 1996 and Jones took over several years later.

The church`s website encourages visitors to donate money and offers for sale coffee mugs, t-shirts and caps -- all featuring anti-Islam slogans.

The website also rails against homosexuality and abortion.

Despite his beliefs about Islam, Jones said: "We`re not Quran experts." He added that, "I would not consider myself an expert on the Bible."

Luke Jones, 29, said he and his father are "common people”.

"We`ve not studied the Quran, but we still have an opinion. We`re actually not educated. We`re common people," said the son, who also is a pastor at the church.

Terry Jones said he has received a death threat, prior to the killings on Friday, which has made him "very cautious" but "not fearful”.

Luke Jones, who is licensed to carry a gun, said he is married and has two children and has made preparations for his grandparents to take care of his family in the event that he should die.

"It worries us," he said of the threat, "but our convictions are too strong."

Luke Jones said the church should not be held accountable for the killings.

"It`s horrible, it`s tragic, it`s definitely not on our hands," he said. "We did not promote violence or killing, we simply burned a book."

He added: "None of us desire to die. A lot of people hate us, a lot of people don`t understand us. I have children. I don`t want them to deal with this their entire life."

Bureau Report