Another Canadian church burned to the ground on Monday, just days after the same church was targeted in an attempted arson.
St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey, British Columbia, was destroyed in a fire that Canadian police deemed “suspicious.” The church is the latest in a number of Canadian churches that were destroyed by fire in recent weeks, with police investigating many of the incidents as potential arson.
Police said the St. George Church was the target of an arson attempt on Wednesday, when a suspect was recorded on surveillance footage apparently trying to light the church door on fire.
“The loss is heartbreaking, disappointing and devastating for the congregation and the community,” Nancy Khalil, whose family helped build the sanctuary at St. George, told the Vancouver Sun. “This was our home. We go there for more than just a service, we go two to four times a week. We got married there, our children grew up there.”
Bishop Mina, bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Mississauga, Vancouver and Western Canada, called on British Columbia premier John Horgan to conduct an investigation.
“The timing of this fire…raises many questions about what the authorities did to protect our church, especially considering the attempt on the same church this past Wednesday,” Mina said.
The burnings, along with acts of vandalism against various churches, began following the discoveries of unmarked graves at former schools for indigenous Canadians run by churches. Around 150,00 children attended the “Indian residential school system” over 120 years, and a Canadian commission concluded in 2015 that the school system perpetrated a “cultural genocide” against the indigenous population.