A Christian pastor is urging GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to agree to a face-to-face meeting with Muslim leaders in order to hold a candid and honest conversation about religious relations in America.
Rev. Patrick Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, told The Christian Post Monday morning that that he is working with prominent leaders in the Republican party in reaching out to Trump's campaign representatives in order to secure the meeting in the next few days.
Mahoney, who regularly speaks out against terrorism and the persecution of Christians, has also traveled to Muslim nations around the world and held meetings with political and religious leaders in order to foster constructive dialog.
Mahoney shared with CP his letter to Trump, in which he writes:
"Key to the uniqueness of the American experience is the timeless concept of 'freedom of religion' in which all should be allowed to worship God according to their faith traditions free from intimidation, harassment or persecution.
"Although I am sure it was not your intention, your recent comments about Muslims not being allowed to enter into this country and being singled out for their religious beliefs, stand in stark contrast to these timeless principles," he adds.
Trump has been defending his suggestion to ban all Muslims entering the U.S. due to security concerns, and last week claimed that several of his Muslim friends agree with him.
"I'm doing good for the Muslims," Trump told CNN last week. "Many Muslim friends of mine are in agreement with me. They say, 'Donald, you brought something up to the fore that is so brilliant and so fantastic.'"
"I have many friends who are Muslims," Trump continued. "They're phenomenal people. They are so happy at what I'm doing."
The GOP frontrunner also said that "one of the most important people in Middle East" called him on Wednesday to say "Donald, you're doing a great service," though he didn't reveal who.
A host of Christian and political figures denounced Trump for his remarks, however, including House Speaker Paul Ryan.
"This is not conservatism," Ryan said. "What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for and, more importantly, it's not what this country stands for."
Rev. Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, former secretary-general for the World Evangelical Alliance, and chairman of Christian Media Corp International, added:
"Trump's comments stem from a position of fear and can be used to mobilize even more people to join groups like ISIS. The vast majority of Christians in the world believe that no one should be discriminated against based on religious belief."
In his letter to Trump, Mahoney noted that the vast majority of American Muslims are committed to non-violence.
"They are hard working, own and run successful businesses like you, condemn terrorism, attend their children's sporting events and seek to provide and care for their families," the pastor wrote.
He said that he is hoping Trump will agree to "an honest, candid and open conversation" about his controversial comments, which would "build bridges and provide a powerful witness to our nation and the world."
The Christian Defense Coalition director concluded:
"In our struggle to defeat ISIS and end terrorism, we must be careful not to paint millions of Muslims who are committed to peace with the broad brush of violence and extremism. We must also continue to affirm our founding principles of religious freedom for all. A powerful step in defeating terrorism is establishing strong relationships with peace loving Muslims."