29 September 2005

Church targeted in paint attack


A church in the Whitewell area of north Belfast has been the target of a paint attack.

The Methodist church in Greencastle had paint thrown at it overnight. Rev Peter Mercer said that it was the second attack in two days.

He said while there had been problems in other areas of Whitewell community relations in the vicinity of the church had been good.

"It's annoying and saddening more than anything else," he said.

He said that two other churches in the area had been attacked with paint - one in Whitehouse and another on the Antrim Road - but that he did not know whether the attacks were linked.

He added that locals helped clean the mess, and that local Catholics had stopped him to express their sympathy for the congregation and condemn the attack.

"I was hardly out of the car when the Catholic woman across the road came to express her condolences," he said.

Belfast's SDLP Deputy Mayor Pat Convery said the upsurge of attacks on churches was "an alarming business".

"Places of worship were once protected by all, but now they are targets for sectarian abuse and attack," he said.

Sinn Fein assembly member for North Belfast Gerry Kelly, said the attack could not be justified.

"Political and community leaders need to make it clear that this sort of sectarian behaviour is completely and totally unacceptable," he said.

Police have appealed for witnesses to come forward.

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