Hate mail and the defacing of a religious statue. It’s happening at the Catholic Diocese of San Jose. And it started after a meeting with the Muslim community.
Somebody chopped off the fingers off the statue of St. Joseph and the left hand off the statue of Jesus outside the office of the diocese. The vandalism happened right after the Martin Luther King holiday in January.
That’s the day the bishop of San Jose met with Muslim leaders in a show of solidarity.
NBC Bay Area has learned the defacing of the statue outside the diocese was accompanied by hundreds of pieces of hate mail aimed at the diocese over the meeting. Members from the Council on American Islamic Relations were among those at the MLK solidarity gathering.
“Its heart wrenching to see another faith community in our community being treated this way,” said Zahra Billoo, a spokesperson for CAIR.
The San Jose diocese declined a request for an interview on the vandalism.
CAIR said the gesture of solidarity by the bishop on MLK Day will not be forgotten.
“We’ve been really appreciative of how supportive our Catholic leadership has been of our community, and many other targeted communities,” Billoo said.
Some believe it’s that support that has now made the diocese a target.
While there is no way to know why someone cut the hands and fingers off the statue, at least one source believes it was an attempt to mimic a punishment in some Muslim majority countries.
“That’s bothersome,” said David Cortese, president of the Board of Supervisors in San Jose.
Cortese was also at the solidarity meeting, and preached tolerance and compassion at his state of the county address.
“If there’s any silver lining in this, it wakes people up and I think it would actually ignite a counter movement of compassion, and that’s what we’re calling for here in Santa Clara County,” he said.