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3 Columbus churches vandalized overnight

COLUMBUS, Ind. — The Columbus Police Department is investigating after three churches there were vandalized with spray paint.

Vandals painted religiously fueled messages on the facades of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, East Columbus Christian Church and Lakeview Church of Christ overnight on Saturday, according to police. A member of St. Bartholomew said "INFIDELS!" and "Quran 3:151? were written in black spray paint on the exterior of the church.

When translated into English, the cited Quran verse reads, "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."

"It's certainly not a warm and fuzzy verse. It talks about the infidels, their refuge being the fire," said Father Doug Marcotte of St. Bartholomew. "Is there somebody that really believes this, that we're all infidels, so they felt the need to write it all over our church? Is this some sort of nasty prank? Is this someone that's trying to incite people against Muslims?"

Nassim Khaled of the Islamic Society of Columbus thinks the message behind the verse has been taken out of context because it refers to a time when people were persecuting Muslims.

Other members of the Islamic Society also condemned the graffiti and offered to help clean it up.

"The first reaction was I was very sad," Khaled said. "We are almost certain that it's someone from outside of our community or it's an unstable person."

Ron Bridgewater, a minister at East Columbus Christian, agrees with Khaled.

"Nobody really thought it was somebody from the Islamic community," Bridgewater said. "We just thought it was probably some kids trying to stir up some hate."

The graffiti has already been washed off of the brick at St. Bartholomew. Police will use the church's surveillance video to try to identify the suspects.

"This strong relation with our friends, Christian friends, and other religions is very strong. It cannot be shaken by such acts," said Khaled.

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