A Derry priest has warned against turning churches into ‘fortresses’.
Rev. Michael Canny spoke out after it was revealed there have been almost 450 attacks on places of worship across NI in the past three years.
In all, since 2016, there have been 445 crimes recorded as criminal damage to religious buildings, churchyards or cemeteries.
Here, in the Derry and Strabane district, there have been 23 recorded attacks in the past three years.
These attacks included vandals breaking glass windows, dating back to the 1800s, at Christ Church on Derry’s Northland Road in 2017. They also defecated and urinated in the church as well as destroying its organ.
The figures were obtained from the PSNI by the Christian Action Research and Education (Care NI) using the Freedom of Information Act.
Care NI has written to the leaders of all the political parties asking for more support to be made available to religious buildings.
Father Michael Canny, parish priest of Glendermott in Derry’s Waterside, says the number of attacks on religious property is ‘awful’.
“We frequently hear and read of attacks on places of worship but, like so many other items reported, it is only when we reflect on the actual numbers that the enormity of the problem is revealed,” he said.
“Any attack is awful but it is a reflection of the society that we find ourselves living in. Violence and disrespect for both human beings and property are commonplace. Places of worship, religious buildings, churches and cemeteries are places that are special and important to many people and frequently they are also places of refuge for many people who are vulnerable.
“While I am disappointed that attacks take place, and I am very aware of the distress these disturbing incidents cause parishioners and worshipers, I also feel that our places of worship should not become fortresses, remain open and welcoming to all.”