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Minister tells vandals they are forgiven

PUBLISHED: 14:02 14 November 2001 | UPDATED: 10:50 03 March 2010

A SUFFOLK minister is turning the other cheek to vandals who have regularly smashed his church's windows and threatened his congregation.

The Baptist Church in Nansen Road, Ipswich, has had services disrupted and property destroyed forcing thousands of pounds to be spent on securing the building.

A SUFFOLK minister is turning the other cheek to vandals who have regularly smashed his church's windows and threatened his congregation.

The Baptist Church in Nansen Road, Ipswich, has had services disrupted and property destroyed forcing thousands of pounds to be spent on securing the building.

Only last week one of the church workers was attacked with a fire extinguisher during a service, but Rev John Sacre is determined to let the yobs know his door is always open to them.

"We have suffered but we are determined to make some good come out of this. We would like to build bridges and let these kids know that it is not them and us – we want to help them," he said.

"It is a cry for help and we want to answer that cry.

"Already we have seen some progress with a group of them coming in on Sunday and there was not a problem, they sat and listened and this is what we want, to help them realise their lives have great value," he added.

The problems have been going on for about a year and have got worse, but church workers said their main concern is for the future of these teenagers.

Derek Le May is one of the youth workers at the church. He said: "This is only a small gang and many of the kids on this estate are great. There are about 12 kids aged from about 14 to 17. They are pushing the boundaries but we are ready to receive them and to help them."

Another church worker who did not want to be named spoke of the disruption they had had to deal with only two weeks ago. He said: "They came in to the church and spoilt the service.

"There was about 20 of them and one of them fired the fire extinguisher at me. It was quite upsetting and we have a lot of older members who are very afraid. The man taking the service was in his 80s and he did well to deal with it."

So far the church have spent more than £5,000 on securing their church with iron grills at the windows and security lighting, but they are surprisingly positive in their outlook.

"The door is always open for these young people, yes they have done wrong but we want them to know we are here for them. Nothing they have done is held against them. They think we are the enemies and that the church is simply an authority figure but this is not true," said Rev Sacre.

Speaking after news in yesterday's Star of two Ipswich teenagers who were banned from Co-op and Allday stores in the town by Suffolk magistrate, he played down the differences of approach towards problem youths between the church and the courts. Magistrates handed out rarely used Anti-Social Behaviour Order to protect customers and staff from persistent verbal abuse and threatening behaviour.

"The courts take each case on its merits and I can see where they are coming from," said Rev Sacre. "Obviously one method of approach would be to ban them - schools also turn young people away after a time and a couple of the people here on Sunday night had been banned from school.

"But at the end of the day that is just shifting the problem somewhere else and the young people's problems have to be dealt with. In extreme circumstances in the short term perhaps they should be excluded but in the long term it's not a solution.

"The courts are acting to protect people and property while we take a Christian view in that we could never shut out people of any age. All we can do is treat them as we find them."

N What do you think the best way to treat problem youngsters is? Do you agree with Rev Sacre or the magistrates who handed out the Anti Social Behaviour Orders? Write to Evening Star Letters, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e mail eveningstarletters@ecng.co.uk.

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