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However clergy encouraged by support of local community

Attacks against church increase

By Gemma Burns

A North Belfast orthodox priest said he has been “touched and delighted” by the support from the local community against ongoing antisocial behaviour issues at his church. The Antiochian Church of St Ignatius, on the corner of the Antrim Road and Cliftonville Road, has been a target for antisocial behaviour that has worsened in recent months. Local gangs of young people have been throwing stones and eggs at the church, damaging cars and harassing parishioners.

Earlier this month a community safety day was held at the church bringing together political and community leaders to show their support for the orthodox congregation.

Fr Irenaeus du Plessis, the priest at St Ignatius’ said the community support for the church has been a source of comfort to the small congregation.

“We have had problems with beak ins, windows being broken and cars being attacked,” he said.

“The parishioners have obviously been afraid. However we have been greatly heartwarmed by the positive actions of the local community. The community safety day with the civic leaders was a great success.

“We know it is only a small amount if young people doing this and that the people of the area aren’t happy and are standing up to them and saying they shouldn’t be doing this.”

The church is not only home to the Antiochian Orthodox Church but also an Indian Orthodox Church that uses the premises to worship.

“”We are very hopeful for the future now we have the community with us,” he said,

“We are also looking at a number of grants that we can apply for to make the place more user friendly. We want to make it a real community place. There are 12 different nationalities who use our church and we really are much needed.

“That is why I am so pleased with the community response.”

Kathy Latcham, PSNI Crime Prevention Officer said they have been working to reduce antisocial behaviour at the church.

“The physical environment has been improved to make the church more attractive as a venue for other community groups to hold meetings or classes, while representatives from Belfast City Council have been looking at how lighting around the Church can be improved to ensure that the building is more visible. This will assist in deterring people who may previously have considered entering the grounds to engage in anti-social behaviour, from doing so.”

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