Australian far-right protesters dressed in mock Muslim garb disrupted an Anglican church service on Sunday, traumatizing members of the congregation, a minister said Monday. Father Chris Jackson, the assistant minister at the Gosford Anglican Church in New South Wales, said the congregation is "in a bit of a shock." Some 10 people with the far-right Party for Freedom barged into the church during a service on Sunday, chanting anti-Islamic slogans. "It was unexpected. Nothing like this has ever happened before. We have some vulnerable people with different backgrounds, including children, and it was a distressing event for all of us," he said.
"The manner in which it took place was particularly distressing. It was done deliberately to shock and intimidate people. When they first arrived people did not know if they should fear for safety. Also, the protestors did it in a way that people of Islamic faith would find deeply offensive. It was hurtful." In a video posted on the church's Facebook page, the protesters are seen pretending to pray while one of their members is holding a loudspeaker with the Muslim call to prayer being played.
"Sadly these hate-filled people would have certainly claimed to be Christian ... but they know not Christ or his peace," Father Rod Bower said in a Facebook post. "This is 'radicalised Christianity' and right wing terrorism and should be named as such." Nick Folkes, the founder and chairman of the Party for Freedom, said, "Father Rod is a good man but sadly misguided, calling for Muslim immigration in an otherwise white neighborhood." The party, with a mission to "Make Australia Great Again," possibly aping U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's slogan, is a fervent supporter of Pauline Hanson, the leader of anti-Islam party One Nation that won four seats in the country's senate last month. The rise of One Nation in Australia echoes the similar situation seen in Europe with centrist governments are being challenged by far-right and anti-Islam parties, after hundreds of thousands of people poured in, mostly fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.