(first published as Local Church Vandalized with Satanic Messages on Ash Wednesday on Technorati)
Earlier today, my mom and I attended our local church, St. Anne Catholic Church, for the Ash Wednesday mass and to celebrate the beginning of the Lent season when we were both stunned at the wall facing the parking lot with disturbing graffitiand other forms of vandalism. What was more appalling were the messages being spray-painted on the walls: inverted pentagrams symbolizing Satanism, along with the message “Carpe Noctem” (seize the night) and “Satan” underneath the inverted pentagram. They were spray painted on the side of the wall near the entrance facing the parking lot and another one at the top side of the roof. That part isn’t really that disturbing to me.
What disturbed me in this type of vandalism was that the faces of our Holy Family statues were defaced with black spray paint, the Beatitudes tablet broken and toppled on the ground, and worse, the wooden crucifix standing at the lawn of the church was also broken. For the deeply religious, this would affect them greatly and emotionally, believing that there is indeed evil out there (and there is evil out there after all). Me, on the other hand, I consider this a hate crime.
Now, I have seen religious worship centers being vandalized before with messages of hate, especially with synagogues and mosques, but I never thought that something so disrespectful, not to mention insulting, such as vandalism with connotations of hate here on my very diverse, very open, and more or less liberal hometown such as Union City, here in the San Francisco Bay Area. What I’ve witnessed earlier today already gave me a reminder that hate of any type and form is everywhere. I have faced discrimination before when I was younger, starting from being prejudiced about my foreign background and beliefs to even my age and gender. Today, for the first time, I’ve faced discrimination based on religion.
Thinking about this incident, the vandalism just had to happen on Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of the season of Lent. With that in mind, obviously the vandalism wasn’t just at random, but also planned ahead. Things such as this could have happened at random times and even at random places. With other neighboring Christian churches (Baptist church, Presbyterian church, etc.) surrounding our block, ours was the only one that was vandalized. This is one of those things that would make you ponder. Lucky for me I grew up in a country where the separation of church and state are enforced. If this were back in my old country (Philippines) and something like this happened on a Catholic church, the entire country would be in a lockdown right now with the Catholic devout expressing their emotions in pain, sadness, and in turn, from anger to just straight out hate.
Instead, our priest reminded us earlier during the Homily that rather than respond to them with hate (after all, you can’t fight fire with fire), instead we will just pray for those responsible for the vandalism for they do not know what they were doing (or rather, just pray for them for they don’t have anything better to do) and right after, clean up all the mess ourselves and restore our church to its beautiful, majestic, symbolic self once more.
As for the perpetrators who did this, I do pray that justice will be served. As the saying goes, karma is digital.