'Please come back. We forgive you' - Church goers plead for armed raider to return so they can help him
A Dublin congregation has a message for the gunman who forced them to lie flat as he held a shotgun to their heads, “We forgive you. Please come back so we can help you.”
Around 65 people, including young children, were praying at the Compassion Centre in Ballymun on Monday when a lone gunman stormed the building demanding money, phones and car keys.
Incredibly, the congregation wants the gunman to come back so that they can help him “pick up the pieces of his life”.
“We are hopefully that he will be in touch soon because we want him to come back so we can help him,” Senior pastor John Eniola told Independent.ie.
“We pray for him. We forgive him and we would like to see him in church again.
“Gardaí have to do what the law says but our approach is based on what Jesus says, and that is to forgiven. That will be our reaction.
“We cannot control what the Gardaí will do but if this man comes to us, we will welcome him with open arms and do what we can to get his life back on track.”
Read More: Congregation feared ISIS-style terror attack after man walked into church with shotgun shouting threats
Witnesses at the centre said the gunman, who appeared to be extremely anxious and spoke with a Dublin accent, pointed a shotgun to people’s heads and threatened to shoot them if the congregation failed to follow his orders.
Describing how the lone gunman walked among the congregation as they lay face down, Mr Eniola said the armed robber “put a gun to one of the members' head and told him to collect the money and phones”.
“It was frightening but we all stayed calm and did not struggle.
"He came in through the back door with a balaclava covering his face."
Mr Eniola continued: “He was shouting for everybody to get to the ground and bring out 'your money, your wallets and your phones'.
“He said 'I am not joking, if any of you move, I will shoot'. Thankfully he did not.”
Mr Eniola said there was “a moment” when he thought the congregation was facing an attack like those in Paris three weeks ago, saying that: “If it had been a terror attack it would have turned out very differently.”
“[But] we knew it was a robbery because he was just asking for wallets and money."
The pastor said the members of the church had gathered in prayer after the ordeal to ask “the Lord to forgive” the raider.
“We look forward to seeing him in the church,” he added.
Independent.ie understands that an image of the gunman was taken from the centre’s CCTV, which shows him putting on his balaclava in the carpark outside before entering.
“The footage is now in the hands of the Gardaí, who will do what they feel is necessary,” Mr Eniola added.
According to a Garda spokesperson, no arrests have been made in connection with the armed robbery though the Fiat Punto used by the gunman during his escape was found abandoned.
“[We] are confident of a breakthrough in the case. This was a terrifying but amateur robbery and the getaway car was found intact in nearby Poppintree,” a source told The Herald.
One of the church's pastors Daniel Tabb, whose two young children were present during the robbery, told Anton Savage on TodayFM about the incident:
"He grabbed one of the congregation and gave him a bag to walk around with him.
“He started going to our sound desk and demanded that the young teenagers give him their phones.
"I really think he would have done a lot better if he had just come to the door and said he was hurting and that he needed help.
“If we had an offering for him he would have done a lot better.
"He got one man’s wallet, one woman’s purse and seven to ten phones as well.”