A teenager has been arrested after decapitating statues of Jesus Christ and Mary outside a church — and then posting images of himself holding the severed heads on social media.
According to Channel 7, the 19-year-old irreparably damaged the statues outside the St Paul of the Cross Church in Dulwich Hill, and then posted pictures online of him holding the broken pieces while smoking a cigarette.
Amid backlash, the teen handed himself into the police – and social media was quick to react.
“We would like to invite him for a rosary. We don’t blame him rather the devil that lives within that tempts us and make poor decisions daily,” wrote one commenter.
“Yes we are in a time of hardship and our religion is being tested but we must remain in the footsteps of Christ,” wrote another. “He would not show any hate toward this young bloke and so we should not either. Forgive and forget; this is what we are taught. If God Himself can forgive this lost gentleman then so should we.”
“We should ask that he be released without charge on the condition that he pay for damages and issue a public statement saying that the Christian side has treated him with compassion,” added another.
“I understand why many of you are angry, but please don’t forget who you represent. Pax Christi,” wrote another.
Others, however, weren’t as charitable in their responses.
“Soooo he got scared because people found out who he was now he wants police to protect him. Praying for you, you need Jesus!” wrote one commenter.
“So shameful! Makes no sense, was it self defence??? Some people have no respect or limits and he has surely crossed the line,” wrote another.
This is not the first time religious statues and artifacts have been targeted in the area; the incident comes just days after another teenage boy, James Dale, posed in front of a Greek Orthodox church in Kogarah wearing a shirt reading “Jesus is a c***,” the DailyMail reports.
After coming under fire, Dale later issued an apology, saying that it was “not his intention” to be offensive.
“I, James Dale, want to apologise to the Greek Orthodox church and community for offending you,” he wrote on a sign. “It was not my intention.”
Last December, a similar incident occurred in the Münster region in west Germany, where dozens of Christian statues were destroyed, including one of Jesus Christ which had its head lopped off.
Due to the dense Muslim population in the region, police were investigating six men with alleged links to Islamic extremists, but gave up after three left for Syria, one died and the other two dropped off the radar, according to Heavy.
Günther Fehmer, who oversees the town’s finances, estimated the cost of the damage to be a whopping six-figure sum, and explained that the communities themselves would have to pay for statues’ repair and replacement. Unfortunately, there is little than can be done to counter the wave of vandalism, he said.
“You can’t take these sculptures inside in the evening and you can’t watch them all night,” he said. “And a video camera in public spaces is also problematic.”