As Franklin Graham prepares to host thousands of Christians at his Central Canada Festival in Winnipeg this weekend, some local Christian groups are planningan opening-night rallycalling onthe popular U.S.ministerto apologize forcomments he has madeabout Islam.
"This is a highly appropriate time for Rev. Graham to retract comments of what amount to hatred of people because of their religion,"Aiden Enns, organizer of Operation Bless Our Enemies,said Thursday.
"He would be seen as a bright light of forgiveness and also humility, and it's very strategic for him to make an apology at this time."
Operation Bless Our Enemies is a twist on Operation Bless Our Troops, the name of a websitethe Billy Graham Evangelistic Associationruns to send prayers andinspirational material to soldiers "faithfully defending freedom" in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Grahamwebsite.
Sincethe Sept. 11, 2001,attacks in New York and Washington,Franklin Graham, son oftelevangelist Billy Graham,has denounced Islam as a "very evil and wicked religion."
Enns said Graham has also made comments "which amount to essentially the use of nuclear weapons on countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and that's highly incompatible with the Christian gospel."
The Winnipeg event, which starts Friday evening and runs until Sunday, will be the only Canadian festival this year for Graham.
No plans to retract
With no admissioncharge, Graham's evangelistic festival aims to bring music and entertainment to "share the simple but profound truth that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life," organizer Dan Klug said.
Klug said he was not surprised by therally and Graham has no plans to retract his comments this weekend.
"Franklin has expressed his concern in regard to the framework of Islamic faith," Klug said. "Their doctrine, the truths that they proclaim to be true and communicate. Franklin does not have any ill will towards the Muslim people."
The festival starts Friday evening with performances by musicians Paul Brandt and Rebecca St. James.
Enns said his multifaith event,dubbeda "graceful opposition," will include Mennonite, United and Anglican church members, as well asrepresentatives from the Muslim and Jewish communities.
They plan to assemble near the MTS Centre, then walk to the festival site to give out handbills to people going to the festival, encouraging them to sign the handbills and leave them on collection plates.
Klug said he hopes the protesters will join the festival to see what the event is all about.