The July Mosque and Miracles conferences will feature Christian pastors from Australia giving seminars on Islam and its challenge to Western societies.
The Anglican Bishop of Christchurch, the Rt Rev Dr David Coles, said that after The Press coverage on Friday of Muslim outrage at the event he received several phone calls from church leaders. “They were saying this is dreadful stuff and we need to take the lead on this. It’s definitely dangerous to start stereotyping Muslims in this country. It’s very provocative and it often gets confused with immigration issues.”
Conference organiser Murray Dillner told The Press last week that Islam “made a society implode” and “had a mindset to take over the world”.
Christian newspaper Challenge Weekly reported that Dillner said Islam would “take away the freedoms we have in New Zealand”.
Director of multi-church Vision Network Glyn Carpenter said his group still supported the conferences.
He said there was “enough evidence in the public domain about radical Islam that it would be naive in the extreme not to address this”. “We can’t be scared into being naive.”
Islamic Association president Javed Khan’s description of the conference organisers as bigots was “unfair and unfortunate”, he said.
Dillner worked with Christians persecuted in the Middle East, so his experience of Islam would be “quite different to the average Kiwi’s”, he said.
Senior pastor Murray Robertson, of Spreydon Baptist, where the Christchurch conference will be held, said the church agreed to host the meeting because he had met some of the visiting pastors and knew they were not extreme people.
He said he was “horrified” at some of the comments made by the organisers, but the conference would still be held at his church.
Catholic Communications spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer said Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II, had explicitly said Catholics respected the Muslim faith and recognised they “worshipped the God of Abraham as we do”.
Methodist president John Salmon said they would not be attending the conferences as they did not see Islam as a threat.