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Article Published: Thursday, May 08, 2003 - 5:06:43 PM PST

No room for hate

The Encino firebomber picked the wrong community to pick on

The cretin -- or cretins -- who attacked Encino houses of worship and religious institutions in the last two weeks attacked us all.

The hate criminal's targets have been varied. They include a Bahai community center, a Presbyterian church, two Jewish synagogues and a Jewish education center.

The common thread in the attacks, of course, is religious faith.

The person who has been lobbing incendiary devices into local places of worship clearly has a beef with people of faith and wants to make a repugnant statement for all to hear.

But the assailant is also attacking all of the San Fernando Valley -- our values, our institutions, our sense of community.

If the Valley were its own city, it would be America's most diverse. It is a community where people of all faiths, creeds, races and national origins live and interact peacefully.

The nature of the recent attacks says it all about the Valley. It's not just any city where an Iranian synagogue, a Conservative Jewish Synagogue, a Presbyterian church and a Bahai community center would all be located in such close proximity.

And it's not just any city in which an attack on people of one faith would be rightly regarded as an attack on all.

Clearly this is criminal resentment of the Valley's hallmark diversity and harmony.

Clearly the tolerance that characterizes our community unsettles such criminals.

And clearly they want to sow discord and spread fear among people who have nothing but respect for each other's backgrounds and traditions.

But it's not going to work.

On Thursday night, Valley residents gathered for an interfaith service at St. Cyril's Catholic Church in Encino. The message was one of defiant unity: The hate of a few will only make the tolerance of the many grow stronger.

No amount of fear or hate is going to shake the values that make the Valley the community it is.

Los Angeles leaders have come together in denouncing the attacks. They've assigned a massive task force to catch the Encino firebomber and offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.

So let that person or persons be warned. Ours is a community of tolerance, but there's one thing we won't tolerate at all: your kind of hate and your assault on our values.

©Copyright 2003, Los Angles Daily News (CA, USA)

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