Vandals attack Belfast church that sheltered Romanian victims of racism

Pastor says windows smashed and door damaged at Belfast City church, which provided sanctuary to families driven from homes

Romanians forced from homes in Belfast

Romanian refugees leave the Lisburn Road area of Belfast on a coach after being forced out by racist groups last week. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

The church in which more than 100 Romanians fleeing racist attacks in Belfast were given refuge has been vandalised, it emerged today.

Seven windows of the Belfast City church were smashed and the front door damaged in the overnight attack.

The church's pastor, Malcolm Morgan, said the building's interior was covered in broken glass.

"I arrived this morning to find windows smashed at the front of our church and our main doorway smashed as well," he said.

"Stones were lying scattered on the floor inside and outside, and ... broken glass was everywhere.

"It would be easy to conclude it was carried out by someone who didn't like our response to the Romanians, but that is only guesswork."

He said the church had been "thrilled that we were able to respond to the Romanian situation ... these broken windows wouldn't have stopped us anyway".

Last week, the church – in the university area of the city – gave emergency shelter to 20 Romanian families who had been driven from their homes near Lisburn Road.

The families are now in a secret location in the city under armed police guard.

A 21-year-old man will appear in a Belfast court later today charged with intimidation and threatening behaviour.

The charges are understood to be connected to the attacks on two south Belfast properties where Romanian families were living.

Two teenagers from the south of the city have already been charged in relation to the attacks.

Beyond Belfast, a Polish family with a four-year-old son have left their home in Moygashel, County Tyrone, following an attack on the building.

Bricks were thrown at the house and two cars were vandalised in the attack early on Monday. Bricks and stones were thrown at a house occupied by a Lithuanian family in the same area.

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Vandals attack Belfast church that sheltered Romanian victims of racism

This article was first published on at 08.55 BST on Tuesday 23 June 2009. It was last updated at 09.24 BST on Tuesday 23 June 2009.

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