The pastor of a racially mixed church in Cheektowaga blamed "hate" Saturday for racist graffiti painted on the side of a Genesee County building owned by his congregation.
Pastor Stephen J. Andzel of New Creation Fellowship said he intends to give the names of some possible suspects to the Genesee County Sheriff's Office.
"It's hate motivated," Andzel said. "Churches are something that people don't particularly care for, and especially our church, because we're 75 to 80 percent black and Hispanic, which makes me different because I'm a white pastor. Maybe people get upset with that."
The graffiti, which uses the N-word, was discovered last Sunday morning and since then has been partially removed, Andzel said.
The church sent an email to local media about the graffiti at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday.
The graffiti was painted on a metal building in Pembroke that once was used as a horse show arena. The church has been using it for storage.
"What we intend to do is paint a giant American flag over it," Andzel said. "It's one nation, one blood and we all believe in the same God."
His church, which Andzel founded 36 years ago, has about 350 members and is located on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga. It owns a 20-acre former horse farm on Marble Road in Pembroke, just east of the Erie County border.
Andzel said the Pembroke property was donated by a church member in 2012, and New Creation intends to turn it into a youth camp.
"We've had the kids (from the church) up here doing things - ATV (riding), fishing, overnight camping," Andzel said. "We have high hopes that this coming year we'll be able to do a lot more of that."
He said he also would like the young people to learn about farming and entrepreneurship by growing and selling produce on the former farm.
Andzel noted that the vandalism occurred during Black History Month. He said he intends to preach about it at his church service at 10 a.m. Sunday.
"These are things that I believe Jesus warned us about in the last days, that there would be a lot of hatred, conflict, things that would cause division and offense, which pretty much we're seeing throughout America right now," Andzel said.
"But as believers," he added, "we ought to learn to honor and respect one another, no matter what color you are. There's only one human race, and I think people don't really understand that. They mix color and race up. Based on their ignorance, they do these kinds of things. But Jesus told us not to get offended, not to get angry over it. I believe we're going to be able to use this to properly inform people and deal with this issue that is deep in the hearts of people throughout America."