City and church officials in Vancouver, Canada are worried about an upcoming visit by Franklin Graham because of his past comments denouncing Islam and LGBTQ people, the Vancouver Sun is reporting.
There’s even a petition circulating, the newspaper reported, asking organizers of Graham’s three-day Festival of Hope next month to replace the North Carolina-based evangelist with someone else.
The growing concern among Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, Catholic Archbishop Michael Miller and some other Christian leaders comes just weeks after a lone gunman was charged with murdering six Muslims in a mosque in Quebec.
“The mayor is concerned about safety,” said Vancouver City councilman Tim Stevenson, who arranged a meeting of the mayor and 14 Christian leaders to discuss their worries about the visit. “The kind of statements Graham makes about Muslims and gays can really inflame the situation.”
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The petition charged that “Franklin Graham’s recent public comments compromise Jesus’ mission of justice and love for all.”
Graham has called Islam “a very wicked and evil religion” and proposed a ban in 2015 on Muslims entering the United States. On the other hand, Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief organization based in Boone, recently opened a mobile hospital in Iraq that is treating Muslims as well as others.
His Festival of Hope, scheduled for March 3-5 in Vancouver, is expected to draw more than 25,000 people and does have the support of many evangelical Christian leaders there.
In a statement Monday, Graham said that 327 churches of various denominations are supporting the festival and “I’m greatly looking forward to being in Vancouver ... to share that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life.”
Graham acknowledged in his statement that “there has been some recent discussion and debate about the Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope and my message. This event is free and all are welcome so I hope that everyone will come see and hear it for themselves.”
He added: “My message will be the ... timeless message of God’s hope, love and redemption for all people regardless of ethnicity, age or gender identity – Christ died for all. ... Politics, policies, economics and commerce are significant matters, but for these three days we will come together in Vancouver to focus on the most important thing of all: God’s love for each and every one of us.”
Vancouver is the largest city in the province of British Columbia and one of the most diverse cities – ethnically and linguistically – in Canada.