Four weeks ago, vandals executed a pre-meditated attack on three Wilmington churches that sent shockwaves through the Merrimack Valley Christian Community.
While the initial reaction among residents was one of anger, a group of congregants from the churches victimized in the attacks has decided the best way to respond is through a show of peaceful unity.
The group, led by Leonard Malvone, Pat Archfield, David Omahony and David Sullivan, has scheduled a Unity Rally for Sunday, April 7, from 1:15 to 3 p.m. on the Town Common.
"This was a horrendous act but from a Christian point of view, we forgive what they did to us," said Malvone, a member of the Wilmington Catholic community. "This is going to be a peaceful gathering, a show of solidarity for all the people of Wilmington who would like to attend.
"We felt like, as a community, we needed to get together and get some closure. We want to be able to heal and move on."
In the early morning hours of Feb. 2, vandals armed with red spray paint and stencils, painted ""brainwashed" onto statues, doors and stairs and other church property at St. Dorothy's Church, St. Thomas of Villanova and Wilmington Congregational Church.
No arrests have yet been made in connection with the attacks.
But Malvone stresses that the rally is not intended to whip up emotions. Rather, it's a show of love and support and a chance to show what Wilmington is all about.
"(The vandalism) is not a Wilmington type of behavior," he said. "This is a very diverse town, a very accepting town. That's one of the things that attracted my wife and I to the town when we moved here five years ago."
Malvone said the Wilmington Council of Churches has voiced support for the rally, as has the pastor of the Wilmington United Methodist Church. In his letter to town officials requesting to use the Town Common, he invited members of the Board of Selectmen to participate as well.
"This is a rally to bring the community together," he wrote, "to denounce bigotry in all its forms and to show solidarity to all people in the community, no matter what their beliefs."
Malvone said the date of the rally, April 7, was specifically chosen because it falls just one week after Easter.
"Easter is a season for peace and forgiveness."