Belmont church’s cease-fire banner vandalized

The following article appearing in the San Mateo Daily Journal on March 23.

Church sees 2nd vandalism incident targeting its signs over the past year

By Alyse DiNapoli, Daily Journal staff

The Congregational Church of the Peninsula, located off Alameda de las Pulgas, decided to hang the sign outside its building earlier in the month after several discussions by its leadership council and congregation.

“The pastor brought the suggestion to us because he had been with a group of religious leaders from around the Bay Area, and they had discussed it and thought it was appropriate that churches speak out in favor of simply peace, on both sides,” Micki Carter, chair of the church’s communications board, said.

Carter said both leadership and churchgoers understood the potential risks given the nature of the tragic situation, but said it was meant to show a stance for peace, rather than taking a particular side on the conflict.

“Churches are not immune from serious violence. We’re aware of that, but we also stand pretty firmly in the position of testimony, or what it is we stand for,” Carter said. “We saw this as a way of expressing our concern with the massive loss of life … [the message] was to simply stop fighting.”

The incident occurred some time between 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 20. Despite reviewing surveillance footage from the surrounding area, no suspects have been identified. Some time in the early afternoon on Wednesday, photos were added to the sign depicting three Israelis held hostage by Hamas. The sign reads “Love and Life Demand a Permanent Ceasefire Now.”

For the most part, Carter said the outreach and comments the church has received since displaying the sign have been mostly positive. The Rev. Jim Mitulski said it’s a way to facilitate much-needed conversation in the community. 

“This banner has already brought largely positive feedback, especially, but not solely, from our Muslim neighbors, one of whom offered to help us replace it. I pray for the people who vandalized our church and invite them to engage us personally in dialogue,” Mitulski said in a press release. “I made the same invitation to the person who vandalized our rainbow flag some months ago. This is what I believe Jesus would do.”

The incident is the second time within about a year that someone targeted the church’s banners. Last March, its pride banner was cut in half and, although it’s been replaced without further issue, no suspects have been identified in either case. 

“We’ve had a number of banners over the years, and no one has ever vandalized them or taken them down so this is certainly an escalation of interest in what we’re about,” Carter said.

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