By Mark O’Brien
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America
WASHINGTON, United States — Church leaders in California are not backing down from plans to host a Muslim convention despite receiving hate mail and threats from across the country.
All Saints Church in Pasadena will host the 12th annual Muslim Public Affairs Council convention on Dec. 15. The event is expected to draw about 1,000 people.
Officials for the church, known for its liberal positions, said the 25 messages they have received since Friday are unlike other criticisms the church usually receives.
One message called Muslims “Body Snatchers” and compared them to Nazis, said Rev. Susan Russell. Another message warned the church was “[c]onsorting with the Enemy that is Killing Christians Worldwide.
Russell said the church’s rector described the messages as “some of the most vile, mean-spirited emails” he’d ever read, especially the ones about the church participating in terrorism. But she said All Saints hoped that hosting the event would send the opposite message.
“We want to light a candle of hope as Christians this Advent season that people of different faiths can stand in solidarity against polarization and for mobilization around our common values,” Russell said.
MPAC, a Muslim civil rights group, is hosting its annual convention at a church for the first time. The group’s president, Salam al-Marayati, said the reason for doing so was to promote an interfaith dialogue.
“When we approached Rev. Ed Bacon to have the convention [at All Saints Church], he opened this church, which to us is a safe space for conversations,” al-Marayati said.
Church leaders said the hate mail was prompted, in part, by an online posting from the conservative Institute for Religion and Democracy. The Contra Costa Times published a criticism posted on the Institute’s website that said, “Yet again, the Islamists are taking advantage of naïve Christians with a desire to show off their tolerance.”
But organizers said they would not let opponents get in their way of holding the convention.
“This is what we have to say to the fear mongers: We want to convert you,” al-Marayati said.
“We don’t want to convert you to our religions, but we want to convert you so we can remove hatred and prejudice in your hearts and replace it with understanding and security,” he continued.
Church leaders said they were working with the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Department of Homeland Security to make sure the convention is a safe place from the threats.
For further information, please see:
Contra Costa Times — Pasadena Episcopal Church Hosting Muslim Convention Gets Hate Emails — 6 December 2012
KTLA News — Pasadena Church Gets Threats over Muslim Convention — 6 December 2012
LAist.com — Hate Mail to Pasadena Church Hosting Muslim Event Calls Islamists ‘Body Snatchers,’ ‘The Enemy’ — 6 December 2012
Pasadena Sun — All Saints Church Receives Threats over Muslim Convention — 6 December 2012