A Canadian church leader has offered forgiveness after watching arsonists burn down his Orthodox Church.
The church in British Columbia in Canada was set on fire on 19th July.
Steven Faltas received a call at 3:30 that St George Coptic Orthodox Church, where he served as a board member was set on fire. Within an hour, the entire building had burnt down.
“It’s been an extremely tragic and difficult event for us to grasp and to wrap our heads around,” Faltas told National Review. “Somewhere between 300 and 400 families attended this church quite regularly, with nearly daily services and activities being offered. So for it to overnight not be there anymore has been extremely difficult for us to deal with and to absorb.”
Firefighters arrived at St. George’s in the early hours of the morning and focused on protecting nearby buildings, after flames had already consumed much of the church. Everything was burned, including all religious artifacts, a wide array of iconography, and a number of other facilities including a library.
“The street was completely closed, and there were approximately four or five fire trucks all fighting the blaze,” Faltas told CBN News. “The scene was quite traumatic, surreal, to be honest.”
However, he did not feel anger toward the arsonists.
“The only thing that we can say to those perpetrators is that, as Christian believers, we forgive you,” Faltas told CBN News.
“We obviously would love to have our church still standing, but at the same time, we are strong believers, and although today may be a day of mourning, God will provide, and tomorrow will be a day of joy.”
Fr Bisenty Gerges, the parish priest of St. George, noted in a pre-written statement that “While we are in shock and devastated by the loss, we hold firm to the belief that a church is far more than a building, and we will come together as a community to rebuild.” The church has since started a donation campaign to begin raising funds.
The attack was one of several recent arson attacks in Canada, where unknown assailants had burnt down at least 45 Canadian churches. The attacks appear to have been provoked by discovering unmarked graves with 1,000 indigenous children on the lands of church and state-funded residential schools.
“It’s tragic that churches are being caught in the crossfire of a historically long and difficult process, a political process, that we as an Orthodox community hasn’t been involved with,” Faltas contended.
(Picture Courtesy: Nick Elbers)