Extremists storm NSW church, threaten congregation
UPDATE 4.40PM: FR ROD Bower has said a racist stunt by members of a right-wing extremist group was cruel and traumatising.
Fr Bower was leading a sermon at Gosford Anglican Church this morning when members of the Party for Freedom barged inside the church, posing as Muslim people.
They pretended to pray in a stunt they labelled a protest against the pro-immigration stance of Fr Bower and the church.
Fr Bower said when they first walked into the church, he thought they were friends from Sydney visiting the church.
But he said it became clear their clothes were "bought from a costume shop".
"Fairly quickly, I realised they weren't Muslims," Fr Bower said.
He said the group had previously harassed the church via social media, but had never done something like this before.
He said police quickly attended and the group was moved on.
Fr Bower said he had spent much of the afternoon on the phone with members of the congregation.
"There are some people who are really quite traumatised," he said.
He said the church, which is well-known as an advocate for immigration and other faiths, was harassed by trolls via social media and email on a daily basis.
The Party for Freedom is a supporter of Queensland senator Pauline Hanson, and Fr Bower highlighted the connection when he posted video of the incident on Twitter.
He said the sentiment that saw Pauline Hanson elected last month on an anti-Muslim policy base came from a genuine fear felt by voters.
"Their (voters) feelings are real," he said.
"The wider community has to be able to hear that.
"The thing is that the fears they are expressing will not be fixed by Pauline Hanson."
EARLIER: A GROUP of men calling themselves 'patriots' posed as Muslim people and pretended to pray in an Anglican church famous for its pro-immigration messages.
Members of the extremist right-wing Party for Freedom dressed in outfits intended to look like traditional Muslim attire and barged into a service at the Gosford Anglican Church this morning.
The group posted photos and videos to social media of the stunt and said it was a protest against minister Rod Bower's support for Islamic leaders and multiculturalism.
Fr Bower took to social media too, sharing a video of the incident on Twitter.
He said the stunt traumatised the church's congregation.
The church is well-known on social media thanks to its famous billboard, which often carries pro-refugee and pro-immigration messages. Photos of the billboard have often gone viral.
The stunt against the church comes at a time when anti-immigration groups are facing the same accusations of extremism they often decry in Islam.
Last week a member of Reclaim Australia was arrested in anti-terrorism raids in Melbourne. Police at the time said the raids were a result of increasing threats from Australia's extremist anti-immigration groups.