VATICAN CITY — Three young Muslim men who were found guilty of desecrating a statue of Mary were ordered by a Lebanese judge to memorize passages from the Quran that praise the mother of Jesus.
The defendants, who live in a mostly Christian village, were apprehended after circulating online a video of themselves desecrating the statue, news media reported.
At their sentencing Feb. 8, Judge Jocelyne Matta ordered the young men to memorize verses from the Al Imran chapter of the Quran, which describes the birth of Mary, her virginity and the annunciation of Jesus’ conception by the angel Gabriel.
Matta, reading her verdict at the court in Tripoli, said her decision was meant to teach the young men about Islam’s respect and love for Mary, reported the website Al Arabiya English.
Maronite Father Rouphael Zgheib, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, spoke about the sentence to Fides, the news agency of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
“The judge realized that the boys did not know anything about the Quran despite being Muslims, and chose that kind of sentence in order to teach them to respect their own religion as well as the faiths of those who are not Muslims,” Zgheib said.