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Cleric's wife appeals for calm after 'faith hate' attack

PUBLISHED: 14:12 17 March 2008 | UPDATED: 13:07 05 October 2010

St George's-in-the-East, scene of the incident

St George's-in-the-East, scene of the incident

THE wife of a clergyman beaten up in his churchyard at St George's-in-the-East spoke of the shock felt by his congregation when she took Palm Sunday services yesterday in his place. Janina Ainsworth, who is ordained herself, stood in for Canon Michael Ainsworth, 57, who was in hospital recovering from an attack by a gang of youths

By Mike Brooke

THE wife of a clergyman beaten up in his churchyard at St George's-in-the-East spoke of the shock felt by his congregation when she took Palm Sunday services yesterday in his place.

Janina Ainsworth, who is ordained herself, stood in for Canon Michael Ainsworth, 57, who was in the hospital recovering from an attack by a gang of youths.

Canon Ainsworth was set upon in the churchyard in Shadwell who Scotland Yard who insulted his occupation when he confronted them for rowdy behaviour, leaving him with two black eyes and cuts and bruises.

His 56-year-old wife said: "It is obvious that it does contain a religious element.

"Quite clearly, there are mindless individuals in every community under the influence of drink and drugs who will engage in random acts of violence. But we're very shocked."

She said after yesterday's service: "Although something awful has happened, we hope that some good can come out of it."

Church leaders are now looking into revamping security of vulnerable churches in the East End.

Mrs Ainsworth added: "We do know that churchyards have been quite vulnerable places.

"So we're going to be working with the police and local council to look at security."

She added: "Clearly the community is very shocked. These individuals were under the influence and this was a random act."

Community relations in Tower Hamlets are normally good, she insisted. St George's has received messages of support from the East London Mosque since the 7pm attack on March 5.

Canon Ainsworth was set upon when he asked a group of youths in the church grounds to quieten down.

The attack has shocked members of the community.

Pensioner Alice Nunn, 81, said: "Christians should not be abused like this.

"This has been going on same time and nothing ever gets done. No-one seems to care."

Another pensioner who contacted the Advertiser last Thursday, Edith Hunter, said: "This was a terrible attack on Canon Ainsworth in our churchyard.

"There was blood everywhere. All the church members are in shock by what happened.

"Our canon is such a nice man who has done so much for the parish. It's been very upsetting."

Parishioner Susan Crocker said: "It's a recurrent problem. It's not out of the blue."

Canon Ainsworth moved to Shadwell with his family from Lancashire last summer and was working to 'connect' with the East End's large Bangladeshi community.

Police have confirmed the case is being treated as a faith-hate crime.

The Dean for Tower Hamlets and chairman of the Inter-Faith Forum, The Rev Alan Green, said: "Any incident that involves an element of abusive faith-related language should be handled in this way.

"An important part of our work is bringing together representatives from our local faith communities, the borough council and the Metropolitan Police to monitor and respond to all reported faith-hate incidents."

Police say they are looking for three Asian suspects. They are appealing for witnesses to the March 5 attack at around 7pm, or anyone with information, to contact Tower Hamlets 'community safety' unit at Limehouse police station on 020-7275 4752, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800-555111.

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