The top bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America wrote a Coptic Orthodox leader and two Muslim leaders in the U.S. to denounce the "Innocence of Muslims" video and also expressed his commitment to speak out against violent demonstrations that have broken out in Egypt, Libya and other places.
ELCA refers to the online short film as a "hate" video, echoing characterization of the video made by a pair of Muslim and Coptic organizations last week in a joint press conference.
In the letter, Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson the leaders for their leadership and strong public witness.
He told the leaders he was saddened about recent events including the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher stevens and other. He also spoke about the importance of standing "shoulder-to-shoulder with people of other faiths" in working for a "world where peace, love and concern for one another may be a reality."
Hanson wrote the letter to Dr. Maher Hathout of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, Los Angeles; Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America, Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, Washington, D.C.; and His Grace Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Pomona, Calif.
Hanson's letter also noted the work the church is doing to help provide for some of the material needs of Syrian refugees at the Za'atari camp in northern Jordan, where many of the refugees are Muslims.
Hanson also commended Last week, Bishop Serapion and Dr. Hathout held a joint press conference in Los Angeles where they condemned escalating violence and tensions in response to the video.
Bishop Serapion read a joint statement on Sept 17.
"We cannot allow the actions of a few deceived fanatical individuals to define our communities. Responding with violence only serves to continue the hate rather than taking the positive steps to start the healing process," Bishop Serapion said. "We call on members of both religions to lean on our faiths to counter the hate and the violence with good speech and positive work. That is why we are here together today. Our communities must continue to strive and take reasonable and practical steps to allow the healing to begin. "
Dr. Hathout, co-founder of MPAC, offered condolences to the families of the growing number of victims of violence in reaction to the video.
"We are here to condemn putting prejudice and hate in a production that only serves to insult groups," Dr. Hathout said. "We declare in no ambiguous terms that we are totally against mass labeling of a group of people because of the actions of some who claim to belong to that group. These people are neither Muslims nor Copts. Those are people who are psychologically diseased, with hearts full of hate and minds full of disease. Our job together is to leave no room for these voices to manipulate and take over the arena. The voice that should be heard is our collective voices here."