Editor's Viewpoint: Church arson attack a truly heinous crime
Once again the tragic story of a ruined church is making the headlines, and the image we produce today of Fr Paddy O'Kane standing in what is left of Holy Family Church at Ballymagroarty in Londonderry, following a weekend arson attack, is truly shocking.
The building was completely destroyed by fire which at one stage threatened to destroy the nearby parochial house, and the lives of people in the vicinity.
More than 20 firefighters battled the blaze, which also badly damaged Fr O'Kane's home, and which brought trauma to the priest and his people, as well as to those of all religions and none. It is disturbing to think that even a parish priest has no guarantee of safety in his home.
All decent people will agree with the comments of local MLA Gary Middleton from the DUP, when he asked: "How can people stoop so low?"
All attacks on property are to be condemned, but the deliberate targeting of a church is particularly heinous. Apart from the obvious danger to life, attacks on churches cause a special revulsion because of their historical role in providing sanctuary and a normally safe place for worship.
Such attacks have been experienced by churches of both main communities, as well as similar arsons on premises owned by the Orange Order, which is foremost a religious organisation, and therefore such damage attracts the same opprobrium.
In recent times there have been a wide range of attacks on buildings clerical and secular, and all are to be condemned. Such an attack is not only on a building but on the wider community, which is totally opposed to such sectarian savagery.
Despite the gloom, there is a glimmer of light in the fact that people from all backgrounds have strongly criticised those who shamefully attacked the Derry church, and by implication its people.
According to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, the perpetrators of the Derry attack were caught on CCTV cameras as they set fire to an adjoining shed, and they must be brought to justice to receive the full rigour of the law.
It is incumbent on anyone who spotted these dastardly attackers, or who knows anything about them, to give their information to the police.
This was not only an attack on a church, but as a peace-hungry society, this was an attack on all of us.