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Columbus church leaders gather after graffiti vandalism

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By Nicole Pence

COLUMBUS, Ind. (September 8, 2014)-- Columbus church leaders and community members of all faiths gathered Monday for an inter-faith service after vandals damaged three churches.

Graffiti vandals left black paint with specific chapters and versus from the Quran on three churches in Columbus overnight Sunday, August 31.

St. Bartholomew Catholic Church, Lakeview Church of Christ, and East Columbus Christian Church were vandalized.

"When you are the victim or object of anonymous vandalism, it is tempting to view your neighbor differently," said Rev. Scott Hill from First Presbyterian Church Community at Monday's inter-faith service.

Faith leaders from more than a dozen religious communities gathered for the service.

"I believe with all of my heart that God has taken something that someone meant for harm and has used it for good," said Rev. Ron Bridgewater from East Columbus Christian Church.

The words "Infindels" and "Qur'an 3:131" were sprayed on the churches with black paint. Both the front and side of St. Bartholomew Catholic Church were tagged.

"While no persons as harmed, it was damaging to people, to their sense of peace," explained Father Clem Davis with St. Bartholomew Catholic Church.

Volunteers at all three churches have cleaned up the graffiti. Columbus police are still investigating and have made no arrests.

"I am convinced that no one who worships with the Islamic community was responsible for this," said Davis.

Zulkifly Yusuk with the Islamic Society of Columbus added, "Islam does not tolerate this kind of behavior at all."

Gretchen Newell attended the service. Newell isn't a member of the churches hit by vandals, but she wanted to be at the service to support all faiths and religions.

"This is a pretty big deal for Columbus, and I think people wanted to show their support for the Muslim community as well.  I just wanted to show that the city of Columbus will not tolerate acts of hate to anyone We are all God's children," said Newell.

The FBI knows about the church graffiti. So far, the case is not classified as a "hate crime."

If you know anything to help Columbus detectives find the vandals, call police at (812) 379-1689.