12 August 2005

'Solidarity' over church attacks


The church has been attacked several times in recent weeks

Members of several Protestant churches in County Antrim are taking part in a clean-up operation at a Catholic Church which has been targeted by loyalists.

It follows the latest in a series of attacks on the Church of Our Lady in Harryville near Ballymena.

Youth Pastor Jeremy Gardiner said they want to show solidarity with their Catholic neighbours.

"In the negativity that's going on in the town right now, somebody needs to make a stand," he said.

"Hopefully that's what we're going to do today in a positive way."

Pastor Gardiner, from High Kirk Presbyterian Church in Ballymena, led groups from his congregation to clean a previous graffiti attack on the church.

"For me, the story of the Good Samaritan really comes to mind - helping other people who are in need and reaching out to our neighbours.

"That is exactly what we are doing; we are reaching out to our neighbours. At this point in time they happen to be Catholic neighbours, if it was Protestant neighbours, we would do the same."

Republican parade

He said he had received letters and emails from places like Canada, America, Germany and France praising his church's support of Harryville's Catholic parishioners.

On Tuesday night, paint bombs were thrown at the church, the third such attack in the last month.

Father Paul Symonds said it was very frustrating and the attack had come just after the church had been restored after a previous incident.

Police condemned those responsible and said it was linked to tensions over a republican parade in the town.

Several hundred loyalists staged a protest over the parade held to commemorate the introduction of internment in 1971.

Protesters dispersed peacefully after a stand off with police in riot gear.

The march involved two republican bands from Antrim, a town about 11 miles from Ballymena, parading the length of Fisherwick Gardens.

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