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Vandals strike 3 churches in area

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Parishioners arriving at three Columbus churches found graffiti spray painted on their buildings Sunday morning.

Columbus Police said the three churches vandalized Saturday night were East Columbus Christian Church, 3170 Indiana Ave.; St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, 1306 27th St.; and Lakeview Church of Christ, 4040 N. County Road 150W.

The word “infidels” was spray painted on the churches and a reference to a chapter and verse in the Quran, according to Sgt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police spokesman.

The Quran is a Muslim holy book. Different Quran references were on each church.

One verse reference refers to this passage, “We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve for what they have associated with Allah of which He had not sent down (any) authority. And their refuge will be the fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers.”

Another says, “And the disbelievers said The Most Gracious has chosen an offspring.”

Police are investigating whether church security cameras or other cameras nearby picked up video of the vandalism, Harris said.

Ron Bridgewater, who is the pastor at East Columbus Christian Church, said he arrived at the church before sunrise to prepare for services and did not know about the spray painting until a police officer investigating the other two church incidents stopped in to say there was paint on the building.

Nothing like this has happened at the church during Bridgewater’s 10-year tenure as pastor, he said.

Bridgewater looked up the passage and said he learned “it wasn’t a jihad battle cry.”

“I’m assuming it’s something like kids, or someone trying to scare someone,” he said of the spray painting.

Since the police took pictures of the vandalism, the church plans to remove the black spray paint as soon as possible, he said. The Quran passage was painted on the Indiana Avenue side of the church, and the “infidel” reference on the Marr Road side.

Church vandalism in Columbus is not common, and Harris said he could not remember the last time an incident like this occurred in the city.

“We are taking this very seriously,” Harris said.

One kind gesture did result from the spray painting, Bridgewater said.

He received a Facebook message from the East Columbus United Methodist Church saying church members had mentioned the 300-member East

Columbus Christian Church congregation in their prayers Sunday morning.

“We thought that was very neighborly and very kind,” Bridgewater said.

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