Pastor who called Islam 'evil' headlining B.C. Christian festival
Published Tuesday, February 21, 2017 2:17PM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 21, 2017 5:51PM PST
A famous American evangelist known to denigrate gay people and the Islamic faith is headlining the Greater Vancouver Festival of Hope, triggering backlash from some in the religious community.
The three-day festival, which is taking place at Rogers Arena next month, was put together in partnership with local churches and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Graham's son, Franklin Graham, is scheduled to appear every night.
That's not sitting well with some local faithful, who are speaking out against the younger Graham over his more contentious views.
"Although this event is supported by many local churches in the area, there are many others in the Christian community who are uneasy with having Franklin Graham speak in Vancouver, in light of his outspoken bigotry," reads a petition organized against the event.
The creators of the petition, which has been signed about 500 times, said their goal is to "stand in solidarity with marginalized and minority groups" that Graham has attacked.
In one of the pastor's most inflammatory comments, made in the weeks after 9/11, he deemed Islam a "very evil and wicked religion," a view he has reportedly stood by and repeated over the years.
Somewhat paradoxically, Graham sometimes professes his love for Muslim people.
He has also made several disparaging remarks about homosexuals, calling gay adoption "recruitment" and equating it to "exploitation." He condemned Barack Obama for supporting same-sex marriage in 2012, and praised Vladimir Putin for enacting anti-gay legislation two years later.
Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson, who was the first openly gay person to become an ordained Christian minister in Canada, said the city plans to meet with Festival of Hope organizers in the hopes of persuading them to change their headliner.
"There are many, many evangelists – excellent evangelists – who don't have these same beliefs towards Muslims, towards the gay community, why would you choose this one?" Stevenson said.
The city councillor said many in the religious community are concerned about Graham’s visit, including the Roman Catholic Archbishop, as is Mayor Gregor Robertson.
In response to the Vancouver petition, Graham released a statement Tuesday assuring that his politics will not be a part of the Festival of Hope.
"My message will be the simple Gospel message: a timeless message of God’s hope, love and redemption for all people regardless of ethnicity, age or gender identity – Christ died for all," it reads.
"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."
Graham said 327 churches of various denominations are supporting the free event.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber