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Lay leader of burned Canadian church forgives unknown arsonist

J-P Mauro - published on 08/06/21 - updated on 08/06/21

Canada has seen 45 Christian churches attacked in recent months, with 17 damaged or destroyed by fire.

A lay leader of a recently burned Canadian church has expressed the community’s forgiveness to the unknown arsonist. Leaning on his Christian faith, Steven Faltas spoke to those responsible while in an interview with CBN News

“The only thing that we can say to those perpetrators is that as Christian believers we forgive you,” Faltas said. “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.”

A heartbreaking scene awaited Faltas as he rushed to the scene of the blaze in the middle of the night. At around 3:30 a.m. on the morning of July 19, 2021, Saint George Coptic Orthodox Church had already started to burn. Video footage taken by a neighbor of the church shows the building completely immolated by 4:30 a.m.

Faltas described what he saw: 

“The street was completely closed and there were approximately four or five fire trucks all fighting the blaze,” Faltas remembered. “The scene was quite traumatic, surreal to be honest.”

Church fires

The fire is just one of a string of recent Canadian church fires that have been deemed “suspicious” by authorities. This rampant destruction of church properties arose after reports by Indigenous Canadians that unmarked graves were discovered on residential school properties. As John Burger reported for Aleteia, “The existence of the cemeteries had been known, but the news this spring and summer has put the controversy over the residential schools back in the limelight.”

The apparent anonymous vendetta against the Catholic Church, however, has extended to parishes on the periphery. Some of the burned churches, like St. George’s, are not Catholic and have no connection to residential schools. Faltas conveyed his frustration to CBN: 

“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 [sic] been involved with,” Faltas said.

A separate CBN report cites 45 acts of vandalism on Canadian churches. Seventeen have been damaged by fire or completely burned down. The attacks have shaken Christian communities in 6 of 10 Canadian provinces. Kurt Jacobs, of the Calgary Police Service, commented: 

“When a faith community is targeted for vandalism or arson it not only impacts those directly affected but leaves others in the same faith feeling unsafe.”

While the loss of important houses of worship is devastating, there have been no fatalities linked to the fires. St. George’s is organizing events to keep their congregation together. They recently held a vigil before the ruins of St. George’s, where they vowed to rebuild. 

Read the full report on CBN

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