Toronto Mosque raises funds to help repair vandalized church

Toronto Mosque raises funds to help repair vandalized church
Father Camillo Lando and Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi

(June 5, 2015) – A Toronto area mosque is reaching out to a Mississauga Catholic Church that was vandalized last month and is raising donations to help the church repair the damages.

Saint Catherine of Siena Roman Catholic Church has been vandalized a number of times over the past few weeks and the Sayeda Khadija Centre, also located in Mississauga, has announced that it will be collecting funds from its congregation to assist the church.

“When I visited the church I was told that the damages are very bad and that they need help,” Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi told “So I called our community to action and the best thing to do is help with the church’s repairs and what they urgently need.”

“We put ourselves in their place and this is what the golden rule is all about.”

Police responded to a report of damage to the Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Church and the Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Elementary School, located at 2350 Hurontario Street in Mississauga on Wednesday, May 20.

Exterior walls at both the church and school were spray painted with graffiti and a religious statue was also targeted and damaged with the spray paint.

A few days later, on Monday, May 25, police were notified of further damage at the Saint Catherine of Siena Catholic Elementary School caused by graffiti that had been spray painted on an exterior wall of the school.

On May 26, Iqbal Hessan, a 22 year-old Mississauga resident, was arrested and, according to Peel Police, “charged with breaking and entering and committing an indictable offence and five counts of mischief over $5000.”

Hessan appeared at the Ontario Court of Justice, Brampton, on Tuesday, May 26, for a bail hearing and was released, on bail, by Justice of the Peace Gerry Manno after a lengthy hearing that lasted two days.

Crown prosecutor Ann Marie De Grace who opposed Hessan’s release on bail, said the criminal allegations ‎against him are “troubling and very disturbing” and “shook up” a church and school community.

Hessan’s father, Basir Hessan, told the bail hearing that his son was diagnosed with schizophrenia and that caused his anger and imbalance.

According to the Toronto Star, Justice of the Peace Gerry Manno said the public has a great deal to be concerned about, including Hessan’s mental illness and the perception “of a young man with a Muslim upbringing attacking a Christian church.”

“Besides the simple property, many people would see this as an attack on their faith,” he said.

“The investigators will be consulting with the Crown Attorney to determine if the graffiti meets the criteria for hate crime charges,” Const. Lilly Fitzpatrick told The Mississauga News. “The current charges are the appropriate ones at this point. In the event that a decision is made relating to hate crime charges, the charges may be modified or additional charges added.”

Hessan’s lawyer, Adil Goraya, told the Toronto Star that he doesn’t believe there was any religious intent behind the actions.

“This is not a hate crime,” he told the Star.

Hessan returns to court June 30.

“We should have respect for all religions. We should have respect for each other,” Father Camillo Lando, pastor of St. Catherine told news outlets. “Our message is a message of love. If it is a crime against religion, we say, ‘Listen, we have to live together.’ You profess your religion, we respect you, they should respect us.”