US Assyrian church spray-painted with Bible verses referencing genocide
An Assyrian church in the US has been vandalised with spray-painted Bible verses referencing a mass killing.
The words "Jehovah lives" and "2 Kings 19:35" was daubed on the Mar Shaleeta Ancient Church of the East in San Fernando Valley, California, which has been in the area since 1997.
The graffiti refers to an Old Testament passage that reads: "Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians; and when men rose early in the morning, behold, all of them were dead."
"When I read the verse, I realised it's really not just graffiti," parish priest Cor-Bishop Father Athanasis Toma told Los Angeles Daily News. "It's aimed toward a specific nation. It's hatred toward a nation. The meaning of that verse struck me hard. That's someone who knew what they were talking about."
Assyrians are among the first Christians in the world and the indigenous people of Mesopotamia - now Iraq - where the last and largest concentration of those who speak Aramaic have lived for thousands of years.
Toma said the church, which was attacked on 25 November, has never had any prior vandalism attacks. Fearing the safety of his congregation, video cameras will now be installed on the property. Police said on Friday they are investigating the incident.
"In a civil society, things like this should not be happening," Toma said. "It doesn't matter what ethnicity."
The incident follows a spike of reported hate crimes and incidents against immigrant communities and minority groups in the wake of Donald Trump's election to the White House.
This week, three mosques in California received letters calling Muslims a "vile and filthy people", and promising that Trump would commit genocide against them.