Deem statue theft as a ‘hate crime’

Elected officials are outraged, congregation leaders are desolate and cops are calling it a hate crime - a bronzed fiberglass statue of the first Filipino Roman Catholic saint was stolen from a front lawn in Jamaica Hill recently.
The San Lorenzo Ruiz Spiritual Center, located at 168-41 84th Avenue in Jamaica Hill, is a house of worship for the city’s Filipino community. Sometime after 7 p.m. on Monday, May 5, the near-life-sized statue of its namesake was ripped from its base.
At a press conference on the front lawn of the center, City Councilmember James Gennaro put the malefactors on notice. “There is no place in this or any other community for any kind of religious intolerance and hatred,” Gennaro said.
Nick Libromonte, the National Director of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Association of America, a loose confederation of 10 congregations around the country, begged for the statue’s recovery. “Please return it,” he implored, “you don’t need it.”
The statue itself has no real value - it isn’t even bronze, which could be sold for hundreds of dollars as scrap metal - it is made of fiber glass, and “bronzed,” like a pair of baby shoes.
“It is very precious to us,” said Libromonte, who discovered the theft when he arrived at the center, to prepare for their regular Tuesday night devotions.
Rabbi Moshe Shur denounced the crime. Recounting the fist amendment of the U.S. Constitution, he declared, “There is freedom of speech in America - there is no freedom of hate or bigotry.” Shur, in a call for assistance from the public said, “We cannot tolerate this kind of behavior.”
All that remains of the statue of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila is his feet and ankles. The cruel irony, as pointed out by Gennaro, is that Ruiz was hung by his ankles at his martyrdom.
The son of a Chinese father and Tagala (Philippine native) mother, Ruiz was a lay-scribe who worked with Dominican priests outside of Manila in the 1630s.
Believing that he was going on a mission to China, the father of three accompanied a missionary expedition to Nagasaki, Japan, where they were arrested almost immediately.
In response to incursions by foreigners, proselytizing had been made a capital crime in Japan, and after nearly a year of torture, during which he refused to renounce his faith, Ruiz and 15 others became martyrs.
They were hung by their ankles and cut on the temples, dying by bleeding or asphyxiation, on September 22, 1637 according to records. He was the last to die, after seven days. When he was offered release if he would recant his faith, he is quoted as saying “If I have 1,000 lives to offer, I would offer them to God.”
Ruiz was the first Filipino elevated to sainthood, and the first to be beatified (a step in the process of canonization as a saint) outside of the Vatican. The ceremony was performed by Pope John Paul II in Manila in 1981. He was canonized a saint in 1987.
For these reasons, San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila is especially close to the hearts of the Filipino-Catholic community. The statue was created in the Philippines and presented to the congregation roughly three years ago.
Passersby were agog. Robert, a sophomore at nearby Edison High School, said, “I pass the statue every day,” and stared blankly at the disembodied remains, repeating, “I don’t know what to say.”
A police source at the scene would not speculate as to why the case was handed over to the New York Police Department (NYPD) Hate Crimes Bureau, saying “We don’t second-guess them - they have reason to suspect this is a hate crime.”
A nearby resident confided that his neighbor had witnessed the crime, and said he was told that a group of youths were involved. The witness has spoken to the police, the neighbor said.
Congregation leaders are less interested in punishment than having their cherished statue returned, “No questions asked,” according to one.

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