Comment Opinion & Features

Not just ISIS: Stories of desecration from around the world

The church of Saint-Nicolas de Houilles, Yvelines, was vandalised three times in seven days (Paroisse de Houilles et Carrières-sur-Seine)


In 2017, statues of Jesus and Mary outside the church of St Paul of the Cross, Sydney were decapitated. On the same day, hundreds of young Maronite Catholics held a vigil to say a rosary of reparation. Within a few days, new statues had been donated, and crowds gathered again for the blessing ceremony.

Burkina Faso

Last year, La Croix reported that a church in Dissin had been attacked, apparently by a militant Protestant. Statues had been decapitated, and a message was left reading: “”Statues are the work of human hands and should not be worshipped. Are you Christians or Catholics?” Local Muslim leaders expressed their solidarity with the church.


In April, St Augustine’s church was spray-painted with two swastika symbols. Fr Simon Heans, administrator of the shrine, said: “We have no idea whether this is an attempt to make some kind of propaganda point, or whether it is simply mindless vandalism.”

Also in April, two Scottish sites were attacked: a Catholic cemetery was vandalized and statues at a Glasgow church were smashed.

In October 2017, vandals scrawled graffiti on Our Lady of the Wayside Church, Broughderg, Northern Ireland. A few days later, a statue of Mary on a nearby hillside was also defaced with obscene graffiti.


On the morning of Easter Sunday last year, two churches in Halifax, Nova Scotia were spray-painted with identical obscene messages.


During the 2016 protests in the capital city of Santiago, several churches were set on fire. Masked student activists removed a crucifix from the Church of National Gratitude, and slammed it into the road, destroying it. The desecration was condemned by the government and by the national union of students, who condemned the vandals as a fringe group.


The church of St Stephen in Beit Jimal has been regularly targeted. In 2013, a hardline religious-nationalist group attacked it with Molotov cocktails and wrote “Death to Idolaters” on the façade. In 2015, crosses were destroyed in the cemetery. Two years later, a statue of the Blessed Virgin was smashed, as were stained-glasss windows depicting the life of Jesus.


Last year, St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Kohalpur, Banke District was set alight by arsonists in the middle of the night. There have been other similar attacks in the country, including a 2017 arson attack on the Assumption Catholic Cathedral in Lalitpur.


Churches have been caught up in the clashes between government forces and protesters. Last year, for instance, two churches in the northern Diocese of Jinotega were desecrated in the space of a week: in one case the tabernacle was stolen and dumped in a field; in the other case, the Blessed Sacrament was desecrated.

The Philippines

It isn’t just in the Middle East that ISIS jihadists attack churches. In the Philippines in 2017, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters invaded San Blas parish in Pigcawayan, destroying sacred images and scattering consecrated Hosts on the floor.