A Swaminarayan temple in Kentucky in the United States was vandalised, with sexist and xenophobic messages spray-painted on the walls, AP reported on Thursday. The miscreants also sprayed black paint on the temple deity and left a knife stuck on a chair in the main hall.

The incident of hate crime is believed to have taken place between Sunday night and Tuesday morning at the temple in Louisville. Phrases such as “Jesus is the only Lord” was scrawled along with images of crosses. A window near the temple entrance was found broken and shards of glass was scattered across the floor, the Courier Journal reported. The eyes of a religious figure was spray-painted, with black paint dripping down the face.

Law-enforcement agenies said the matter was being investigated as a hate crime. Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said there were no suspects at the moment since no video recording of the crime was available. He said police would be present at the temple next Sunday.

“Regardless of what religion you are, this should not happen,” Raj Patel, the temple’s spokesperson, told PTI. “We come here to worship. We should not have to turn our backs to see who is behind us, but we should be happy to come here and worship in peace.”

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer condemned the incident and called on residents to stand up against such hatred. “The vandalism of Swaminarayan Temple was a cowardly and abhorrent act, a sad reminder of the presence of bigots among us who feel emboldened as of late,” Fischer said on Twitter. “I stand with the Hindu community in rejecting this hatred.”

Fischer said the miscreants wrote “repugnant messages of hate”. “[The vandals] have only given our community more fuel and more determination to embrace compassion and understanding and embrace each other,” he added. “Anytime we see hatred or bigotry in our city, we will stand up and speak against it.”

The mayor also invited the public to join his staff in cleaning the temple and “paint away the hate”.