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Church arsons are an attack on us all

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 25/07/2016

Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in south Belfast
Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in south Belfast

The arson attacks on Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in south Belfast are depressing and impossible to justify.

There can be few more despicable acts than damaging any church where people share in worship.

The latest attack on the building was particularly disturbing, as it was the second in two days.

Police have not ruled out a sectarian motive, and the congregation is baffled by the motives for such criminality.

This well-known church and its hall nearby are similar to hundreds of other buildings which are used regularly for worship and for shared community activities.

Apart from the members of the congregation, many other groups will be greatly inconvenienced by this targeting of the church.

Alternative arrangements have had to be made for a group of up 300 young people due to take part in Scripture Union activity.

One of the more encouraging aspects arising from this dastardly crime is the way in which local places of worship from different denominations have rallied round to help.

Their support for the Saintfield Road congregation will remain extremely important in the days to come. Another encouraging factor has been the swift and clear condemnation by political and community leaders, including the Secretary of State and the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Such support will provide succour for members of Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church, who will also require practical help in many different ways as the congregation faces the many challenges ahead.

The targeting of this Presbyterian church is part of a disturbing pattern.

We have also witnessed similar attacks on property owned by the Orange Order, and it is to be hoped that the damage to the Saintfield Road place of worship does not mark an escalation of senseless sectarian bigotry.

Whatever the reasons for these attacks, it is to be hoped that the individual or individuals responsible for the outrages will be swiftly brought to justice and punished accordingly.

These were attacks on buildings, but also on the sacred ground where every individual and community has a right to seek peace, inspiration and comfort.

The targeting of Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church is an attacks on all of us.

Belfast Telegraph

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