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Members of a Holland, Mich., Christian Reformed congregation are rallying around their pastor after an incident some are calling a hate crime.

Wayne Coleman, pastor of Imagine Fellowship CRC, woke up early one morning in mid-July to the sound of someone smashing out the windows of his car. He also says one of the vandals uttered a racial slur during the attack.

Holland police quickly responded to the incident, which led to a high-speed chase and crash, and eventually the arrest of two suspects who are facing multiple charges. At press time, no hate crime charges have been filed, although Coleman says “without a shadow of a doubt” that he was targeted because he is African American. Two other recent incidents targeted another local African American leader.

“It’s time for us to come together as a community, to make sure Holland is a safe community for everyone, regardless of race, regardless of faith, regardless of color,” said Coleman, who also operates a local African American art and history museum with his wife, Ruth.

Coleman’s congregation is primarily African American, with an emphasis on ministries toward mentoring boys and young men. The recent incidents sparked a community meeting for which about 100 people turned out.

A local cultural diversity group has started a fund to raise money to pay for auto insurance deductibles and other expenses related to the vandalism. Coleman says he feels empathy toward those responsible for the incident and their families.

“We have to stick to the integrity of our faith. We’ve already forgiven them. We feel sorry for their parents. No parent wants to see their child in any type of trouble. Our prayers go out to them,” Coleman said.

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