Stars line up for evangelical event
Published 05/04/2008 | 09:36
Thousands flocked to the Odyssey Arena last night to take part in the first night of one of the biggest religious events ever to take place in Northern Ireland.
More than 30,000 people are expected to pack the arena over the weekend for the Franklin Graham evangelistic campaign.
The three-day event - two years in the planning - is backed by two of Northern Ireland's best known young sports stars.
After a successful beginning to the campaign last night, Irish international rugby player Andrew Trimble will be interviewed tonight during a special youth evening.
Large numbers of young people are expected to flock to the Odyssey to hear Andrew talk about his Christian faith and also to hear Franklin Graham, the American evangelist and son of Dr Billy Graham, who is spearheading the evangelistic campaign 'Celebration of Hope'.
Andrew Trimble is attending as a sporting role model, as is Northern Ireland footballer Stuart Elliott who will be the main guest tomorrow evening when the Celebration of Hope draws to a close.
Franklin Graham, who is CEO and President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, described the weekend as "a festival for the soul".
He is following in the footsteps of his father who held a series of major rallies in Belfast in 1961.
Stephen Cave, director of the organising committee for the Franklin Graham rallies, praised the young sports stars.
"They are both guys who are prepared to be public about their Christian faith, knowing it opens them up to close scrutiny, but both have impressed many with the consistency of their lifestyle and behaviour," he said.
"Whereas in the past Christians were maybe discouraged from careers in professional sport, they are showing that Christians have a significant impact for good in other fields, setting a great example for young people watching them."