By Sean Gallagher
COLUMBUS, Ind. (CNS) — Members of St. Bartholomew Parish and two other Protestant communities in Columbus discovered their church buildings vandalized when they arrived for worship the morning of Aug. 31.
All three incidents involved the spray-painted word “Infidels,” and the citing of a chapter and verse from the Quran that relates to the way in which non-Muslims will be punished for their unbelief.
The vandalism was reported to police in Columbus, who are conducting an investigation, according to Indianapolis media outlets.
Father Clement Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish, said there is a sad irony in the fact that this kind of vandalism took place in Columbus and at his parish in particular.
“Columbus, as a community, works hard at encouraging inclusion from diverse backgrounds,” he said. “We, certainly as a Catholic church, have that as part of our responsibility, too.”
Columbus draws people from around the world to work at multinational diesel engine producer Cummins, Inc., and other businesses located there.
Two leaders from the Islamic Society of Columbus Indiana called Father Davis Aug. 31 when they learned of the vandalism at the parish. One was Marwan Wafa, vice chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, who has spoken about Islam to St. Bartholomew’s men’s group. The leaders offered any help that might be needed by the parish.
“We have a very good relationship with him,” Father Davis said. “We’ve never had any complaint with the Muslim community. I wanted to assure him that it was not my conclusion that this was anything fomented by their community.”
Father Davis planned to address parishioners about the incident in the parish’s bulletin for the weekend of Sept. 6-7.
He said he was to encourage parishioners to not allow the vandalism to harm the good relations that they have with the Muslim community in Columbus.
“There could be some people in the community at large who would say, ‘Oh well, we have to show those Muslims. … We’ll show them,'” Father Davis said. “Any action like that would be something that I would repudiate completely.”
In fact, it is Father Davis’ hopes that the incident actually will improve ties between St. Bartholomew and the Muslim community in Columbus — something he sees evidence of in the way leaders from that community reached out to him so soon after the vandalism occurred.
“It bodes well for the future of our doing things [together],” Father Davis said. “Their talk of bridge-building is all good. We’ve got some bridges already in place through individual friendships with members of the community there.”
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