A gang of youths used hammers and blocks in an attack on the walled-off Jewish section of a cemetery in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Friday, local media reported. Seventeen Jewish graves were destroyed and vandalized in the organized attack inside the cemetery. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is investigating the incident as a hate crime. Some of the graves date back to the 1870s.
Bishop Noel Treanor, head of the Irish diocese of Down and Connor, said that “these shameful acts are a blemish on our society.”
“What a tragedy and blemish then that the long-present, beloved and treasured Jewish families of our community should suffer yet again such actions of disrespect, violence to the memory of their beloved dead and the regrettable outworking of a latent xenophobia that stalks the minds of some,” Bishop Treanor said.
Inspector Norman Haslett of the PSNI said the attack was “a particularly sickening incident, which we are treating as a hate crime,” stressing that “to disturb the sanctity of a cemetery in this way is completely unacceptable and I can assure the public that we will conduct a robust investigation.”
Speaking at St Peter’s Cathedral in Belfast, the Bishop said: “As a society, as neighborhoods and communities, we must honestly consider if we harbor attitudes that are negative to those whom we too easily classify as ‘foreigner,’ rather than see them as sisters and brothers in Christ and in humanity.”
Well, that was a little embarrassing. But he meant well.
“As a society, we need to build co-operation between our homes and schools to ensure that our children are educated in heart and attitude, in mind and action, to respect every person without exception,” Bishop Treanor continued, suggesting that “as we build here in Northern Ireland a society fit and able to accommodate the contemporary reality of the mobility of peoples, willing to cherish the multi-cultural and multi-faith mosaic that is every contemporary society generally and in its most local communities and neighborhoods, there can be no compromise on these imperatives to build minds and hearts that are open to, respectful of and treasure diversity.”