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Experts confused, concerned with anti-lockdown rally imagery

Last Updated Jan 24, 2021 at 11:16 am MST

CALGARY – It’s billed as a rally against pandemic restrictions, but a poster promoting an upcoming march in Alberta is drawing confusion and concern from religious experts who say it appears to link religious and racist imagery.

“This is a fringe element performing a really curious exercise,” said pastor Tim Callaway.

First, there’s the image of white nationalists marching through Charlottesville in 2017. That image is being used to connect this rally to a Jericho Torch March, linking religious text with racist actions.

In a video promoting the event, organizers explain the significance of calling it a Jericho March.

“What happened when they marched around seven times on the last day? The walls came crumbling down so spiritually speaking we need those corrupt walls that have been built up by the politicians to come smashing and crumbling down,” explained one of the organizers.

CityNews reached out to organizer Artur Pawlowski who says the poster appearing to show a photo of a racist rally stateside didn’t come from him and was created by a different “freedom group” planning to attend the event next month.

As for references to the battle of Jericho, he says religion plays a big role in his life and his events.

“Everything that our, that I organize has a Christian meaning. I’m a pastor and this is a Jericho walk, a Jericho march and a prayer rally. A vigil if you will,” said Pawlowski.

“What they’ve done is taken common iconography and or symbology and they’ve morphed it to their purpose,” said Chad Haggerty with the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation.

“It’s all very unclear and vague and frankly I think a bit crazy,” said Irving Hexham, a professor of religious studies at the University of Calgary.

But what imagery or feeling are they trying to evoke? For that answer, experts say you need to go back to the old testament and the book of Joshua.

“The people of Israel, or at least their military component, walking around the City of Jericho once for six days and then on the seventh day they walk around it seven times, blow their horns and the walls come crumbling down,” explained Callaway.

“It’s nothing that the children of Israel really do, it’s something that God does. But they’re trying to see it in some way that if they do this, God will come in the on their side and the government will fall in some way,” said Hexam.

“We do well to be cautious just reaching into the Bible and grabbing hold of some story and yanking it into the 21st-century world and using the imagery and the language that a lot of people really don’t know how to take,” said Callaway.

And that’s why–despite the confusion around why the group has taken this approach–there is still concern.

“Especially following events like Charlottesville and then what happened at the US capitol a couple of weeks ago can we really afford to just dismiss rhetoric as empty? Sadly, I don’t think we can,” said Callaway.