Shantallow community leaders have rallied to condemn a sectarian attack on Ballyarnett Presbyterian Church at the weekend.
The church which was daubed with offensive graffiti was yesterday visited by a group of community leaders and residents to show their support for local Presbyterian Minister Alastair Rosborough and his congregation, in opposition to those who carried out the attack.
Presbyterian Moderator Rob Craig and PSNI Chief Superintendent Stephen Martin also spoke out about the sectarian vandalism.
Vandals scaled the fence surrounding the church and daubed graffiti from one end of the front gable to the other. The graffiti stated: ‘Your not welcome here’, ‘F*** the queen’, ‘IRA’, ‘Huns out’ and ‘Out now’.
Reverend Alastair Rosborough said the nature of the graffiti was “distressing”.
“It was a whole series of statements, saying you really shouldn’t be here and that is what is so distressing. We’ve been here so long, we see ourselves as making a positive contribution to the local community.”
He added that members of the public called in and telephoned over the weekend to show support, while some even offered to come and clean it up.
Rev Rob Craig said: “My heart goes out to people. No congregation of any denomination should be turning up on a Sunday morning to receive the message ‘you are not welcome’. I’m pleased to say that message is not the one of the people of Ballyarnett or indeed the wider city, what they are saying is ‘you belong, you are welcome and you are a part of us’. This church has been here for a long time. We are very aware that the community has changed and people have moved away but there is a very faithful core of people who travel, they may not live in the immediate vicinity but his is their congregation.”
He added: “I would want to say to them [vandals] that the message of Christian church is that you are welcome.
“I say come and meet the people of Ballyarnett, talk to them, get to know them and you’ll find that you would want them to stay here because they are great people and they’ve a great message to deliver.
PSNI G District commander, Stephen Martin, called on members of the local community to report those responsible.
“I join with every right thinking person in condemning what happened here at the weekend and sharing the disgust that everyone feels.” He added: “We will do everything we can to try and catch those responsible and I would ask anybody with any information that might help us to bring it forward. “I know that the overwhelming majority of people in this city would not support what happened here at the weekend and would be disgusted by it.
“My message to the people who did it is you are absolutely out of step with the thoughts and moods and desires of your city.”