COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) – Police are investigating after three churches in Columbus were vandalized with spray paint over the night on Saturday.
According to St. Bartholomew Catholic Church member Brian Pinto, the vandals spray painted “INFIDELS!” in black on the outside brick of his church. “Quran 3:151″ was also spray painted on the front of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church.
According to the Columbus Police Department, two other churches were also vandalized. Those churches were East Columbus Christian Church on Indiana Avenue and Lakeview Church of Christ on N. County Road 150 W.
Several religious communities aren’t letting the hateful speech come between them.
On first look, the verses can appear threatening.
When translated into English, Quran’s chapter 3, verse 151 includes phrases like: “We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve,” as well as, “And their refuge will be the fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers.”
But members of the Islamic community say those words are being taken out of context.
The vandals outside St. Bartholomew didn’t use sticks or stones, but words meant to hurt.
“Down here, you could see it all right here and it said ‘Infidels!’” said father Doug Marcotte.
The graffiti had been washed off before WANE’s sister station WISH arrived, but the threats that were sprayed across them still lingered in Marcotte’s mind.
“It’s certainly not very kind. I mean they are trying to send a message,” he said.
Not just to his church, but two more, including East Columbus Christian Church where we met Nassim Khaled with the Islamic Society of Columbus.
“The first reaction was I was very sad,” he said. “We are almost certain that it’s someone from outside of our community or it’s an unstable person.”
Khaled is also certain that the words used to incite fear, specifically chapter 3, verse 151, were used incorrectly.
“There is a story behind that. (Muslims) at the time were being prosecuted and God said he would send terror to those who are prosecuting the Muslims,” said Khaled. “That’s the bottom line of the story.”
It’s the same story he relayed to senior Minister Ron Bridgewater of East Columbus Christian.
“Nobody really thought it was somebody from the Islamic community,” said Bridgewater. “We just thought it was probably some kids trying to stir up some hate.”
If hate’s what they were trying to stir up, the outcome was the complete opposite.
“This strong relation with our friends, Christian friends, and other religions is very strong. It cannot be shaken by such acts,” said Khaled.
Members of the Islamic Society didn’t just condemn the graffiti, they offered to help clean it up. Marcotte said his church did turn some surveillance video over to investigators, but police don’t have a description of the suspects at this time.