An Orthodox congregation in Canada whose church building was destroyed in an apparent wave of church arsons has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in the weeks since the destruction of its house of worship, although more will still be needed.
St. George Coptic Orthodox Church of Surrey, British Columbia, located around 24 miles away from Vancouver, was destroyed in an arson attack on July 19.
“I woke up to several missed calls and texts on my phone the morning of July 19th, all related to the fire at the church,” Steven Faltas, a church spokesperson, told The Christian Post.
“I rushed to site to find the church still engulfed in flames, with firefighters still trying to put out the fire in the last remaining areas that were still standing. They had the street closed off with four to five fire trucks all dousing the flames with water, but it was obvious that the damage had already been done.”
Since then, the congregation has been worshipping at the nearby St. Joseph The Damascene Antiochian Orthodox Church of Surrey while still looking for a facility sufficient to do Sunday school for the church’s approximately 200 children.
“This nearly 70-year-old building was much more than just a building,” stated the church in its rebuilding campaign. “Our Church brought together a diverse congregation of Coptic, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Iraqi and Lebanese Orthodox believers.”
“While we are thankful to all those who have reached out and offered their churches as a temporary location where our services can continue to be held, we hold strong in the belief that our Lord Jesus Christ will ‘restore its ruins and will rebuild it as it used to be.’ (Amos 9:11).”
Faltas said that the congregation has raised more than $700,000 for the rebuilding effort in the weeks since the fire.
While describing the amount as a “huge blessing,” Faltas warned that it's “still very short from the millions we will need if we want to rebuild what we had.”
“The building was very old but quite large and provided space for over 400 families who attended a variety of regular services offered nearly every night of the week,” he said.
“We have insurance, but given the age and value of the building, the amount that will be covered will be much less than what it will cost us to rebuild. So, we are urging anyone and everyone who is able to make a contribution to our rebuilding efforts [to do so]. We would greatly appreciate it.”
In May and June, two mass graves were discovered at former residential schools in Canada created to assimilate the indigenous population and were jointly run by the government and the Catholic Church.
Soon after the news of the discoveries broke, a wave of church arsons occurred, primarily centered on churches located in the western provinces and indigenous territory.
Faltas noted that St. George’s was never involved in the residential school program, adding that it would “be a tremendous tragedy if the church was confirmed to have been burned down as retribution for the travesty that took place at those residential schools many years ago.”
According to the spokesperson, the church experienced an attempted arson by an unknown party five days earlier. The attack on his church “confirms that no place of worship is currently safe in Canada," Faltas added.
“Places of worship are currently under attack nationally and will continue to be until there is a political solution to the narrative,” he continued.
“We urge the Canadian Government to invest the money and effort required to ensure places of worship and their congregants [are] safe and to assist in the rebuilding process.”