DETROIT -- A group that counts Islam among the ills facing the nation began a 24-hour prayer rally Friday evening in an area with one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States.
The gathering at Ford Field, the stadium where the Detroit Lions play, is designed to tackle issues such as the economy, racial strife, same-sex relationships and abortion. But the decade-old organization known as TheCall has said Detroit is a "microcosm of our national crisis" in all areas, including "the rising tide of the Islamic movement."
Leaders of TheCall believe a satanic spirit is shaping all parts of U.S. society, and it must be challenged through intensive Christian prayer and fasting. Such a demonic spirit has taken hold of specific areas, Detroit among them, organizers say. In the months ahead of their rallies, teams of local organizers often travel their communities performing a ritual called "divorcing Baal," the name of a demon spirit, to drive out the devil from each location.
"Our concern is that we are literally being demonized by the organizers of this group," said Dawud Walid, executive director of Council on American- Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter, which last week urged local mosques and Islamic schools to increase security. "And given the recent history of other groups that have come into Michigan ... we're concerned about this prayer vigil stoking up the flames of divisiveness in the community."
TheCall is the latest and largest of several groups or individuals to come to the Detroit area with a message that stirred up many of its estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Muslims. Recent visitors have included Florida pastor Terry Jones and the Acts 17 Apologetics missionaries.
As with many other Christian groups, TheCall and its adherents believe Jesus is the only path to salvation. While they consider all other religions false, they have a specific focus on Islam, largely in response to the Sept. 11 attacks, terrorism overseas and fear that Islam, which is also a proselytizing faith, will spread faster than Christianity.
Muslims weren't the only ones concerned about Friday's event. A coalition of Detroit clergy led a march of about 150 people from a city park to the football stadium Friday evening, around the time the rally inside was scheduled to start.
"We chanted 'Stop the hate, spread the love. Stop the hate, spread the jobs,'" the Rev. David Bullock told The Associated Press after their hourlong march and prayer rally.