Local businessman Ralph Panebianco has pulled his support for settling Syrian refugees in Glen Innes and will not offer the Church Street convent for accommodating them.
Mr Panebianco made the offer to use the convent to house refugees two weeks ago to ease the minds of locals about their assimilation into our small community.
However, since making the offer he has been swamped with negative feedback from community members regarding the proposal and will have no part in the ‘Refugees are welcome in Glen group’.
“My offer was genuine and I felt there were many good reasons to do it,” he said.
"I have had people threaten my kids at school and my wife and I at our business."Ralph Panebianco
But, since making the offer and the story running in the paper I have had people threaten my kids at school and my wife and I at our business.
“My sales have been down and we are suffering because people feel we were going to facilitate a mosque at the convent and encourage terrorists to thrive in our town.”
Mr Panebianco said that due to the recent terrorist attack in France he had to place his family and their wellbeing first.
“Because we have to live in this community we do not want to do anything that will jeopardise our ability to live in it peacefully and get along with locals,” he said.
“We are not anti-Muslim at all but it’s now become too hard to follow through with this offer because there are so many people against it.
“I’d like to let locals know though that there was never any chance of the convent being used as a mosque because we are catholic Christian in our faith so that was never going to happen, it was only ever offered as accommodation.”
Local Refugee advocate Nicci Parry-Jones said it was a shame Mr Panebianco was getting flak for his accommodation offer.
“It is unfortunate that Ralph has been put in this position but I understand he has to make this decision on behalf of his family,” she said.
“Those who are making it hard for Mr Panebianco are ill informed though because in my research I have found that it’s almost a hundred percent likely that the refugees that will be settled in rural areas will be persecuted Christians, there is a low chance they will be Muslim.
“The Muslim groups that are to be settled will most likely go to cities because there are mosques there and other cultural infrastructure that we clearly don’t have in Glen Innes.”