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Christian charity CARE reports 445 attacks since 2016. In a letter to all political parties they call for “immediate action and a fund to help churches”.
According to the British charity Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), 445 churches and religious buildings in Northern Ireland have been attacked over the past three years.
On average, a crime against religious buildings, churchyards and cemeteries happens almost every other day.
The figures also show that attacks have happened in every one of Northern Ireland's 11 policing districts.
CARE got the data from a Freedom of Information request (FOI) to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
ALL KINDS OF RELIGIOUS PLACES
Among those damaged has been Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in Belfast, which suffered two arson attacks in July 2016, and the Sacred Heart Church in Ballyclare, which was attacked with paint on Easter Sunday this year.
Both the Belfast Synagogue and Belfast Islamic Centre have also suffered property damage in the last 10 years.
Dr Alistair McCracken, clerk of Session, Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church recalled that “following two arson attacks on our church in July 2016 the initial response was one of anger and frustration quickly followed by asking 'Why', then came a sort of grieving period as we grappled with the practicalities of how to manage the restoration of the buildings”.
“As a congregation we would welcome any initiatives by government to protect churches from further attacks”, he added.
PLACE OF WORSHIP PROTECTIVE SECURITY FUND
Care NI has written a letter to the leaders of all the political parties, asking for a specific “manifesto commitment to set up a fund in Northern Ireland, similar to the places of worship (POW) protective security funding scheme which is available in England and Wales”.
Created in July 2016, that fund provides financial resources to religious organisations, helping them buy security measures such as CCTV, fencing and lighting.
CARE: “ACTIONS NEED TO BE TAKEN”
Mark Baillie,Care N I’s Policy Officer, said that “action needs to be taken, because in a free and democratic society, no-one should be afraid of gathering together with those who share their faith in a place of worship”.
“These attacks leave religious groups with property damage, potentially large insurance costs and fears of future attacks”, he concluded.