Members of St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey, BC are coming together to raise money to rebuild their place of worship after it was burned down earlier this week.
The Surrey Fire Department confirmed Monday morning that St. George Coptic Orthodox Church, primarily frequented by those of African and Middle Eastern descent, was lost entirely to the fire.
The fire’s cause is under investigation, with a church board member alleging arson after seeing a woman on video last week attempting to start a fire at the church entrance.
"Our church was more than a building," they wrote in a statement. "It brought together a diverse congregation of Coptic, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Iraqi, and Lebanese Orthodox believers. The Church was a haven where we practiced our ancient holy rites that have been preserved over centuries from our forefathers who keep the faith defying great odds. It was a place we built community, where we shared meals, where we married our youth, christened our babies and welcomed newcomers to the faith."
They also called on the government to take action, stating "It is the duty of our elected officials to provide equal safety measures to protect all citizens and places of worship irrespective of their religious affiliation and cultural identity." Church member Sozan Kran set up a GoFundMe which has thus far raised nearly $10,000. In the description, Kran reiterates that his church is "Orthodox and not Catholic."
"We are very different," he continued, "but that doesn’t change the fact that people think it’s okay to burn churches down because it makes sense or even for payback. Either way people need to be educated that the Orthodox Church has nothing to do with what’s going on in Canada." Kran pointed out that the burning of the church came just two weeks after it had reopened following over a year of Zoom services. He also called out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his silence on the event.
St. George's Coptic Orthodox Church is also accepting donations directly via its website.