SURREY, BC - JULY 19 : St. George Coptic Orthodox Church is seen after it was destroyed by fire in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada on July 19, 2021. (Photo by Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images


OPINION: Canada’s Churches Are Burning. Where’s The Media?

Hundreds of thousands of Christians fled to Canada to escape religious persecution in Egypt, only to find the same irrational hatred lashing out at them in the West. On July 19, an arsonist burned down St. George Coptic Church in Surrey, British Columbia.

“Many of the members of our community immigrated here in search of safety from political persecution in our home countries, so it’s difficult to wrap our heads around the idea of religious persecution in Canada,” parishioner Steve Faltas told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s a very difficult pill to swallow, to even think this is a hate crime based on our religious beliefs.”

The successful fire came just five days after video surveillance footage captured a woman attempting to set the church ablaze. Canada’s Coptic population has “many questions about what the authorities did to protect our church, especially considering the attempt on the same church this past Wednesday,” said Bishop Mina, who oversees the Coptic churches of western Canada.

The Copts, for whom persecution was a way of life in Egypt, are not the only ones whom modern-day Canada reminds of their lives under profoundly anti-Christian regimes. On July 4, someone set fire to the Calgary Vietnamese Alliance Church, an evangelical church comprised of Southeast Asian refugees, many of whom fled Communism.

“We escaped from Vietnam to come here to get more freedom, to live and we think it was a good country — and now it happened to our church,” said Pastor Thai Nguyen. “Maybe it is not safe to be here in Canada compared to Vietnam.”

The fires are the latest in a string of at least 45 cases of church vandalism sweeping Canada. Ten churches have been torched since June 21. In a familiar twist, the fires erupted as part of a media-fueled outrage after digging up atrocities from the long-dead past.

For more than a century, the government sent indigenous children belonging to native tribes (now dubbed “First Nations”) to boarding schools. These schools, which were often run by the Roman Catholic Church, were supposed to teach them English and help assimilate them into Canadian culture. But the poorly supplied dorms were rife with physical and sexual abuse, and an estimated 4,100 children died on their watch, often of disease. In May, ground radar found soil disturbances that could be the graves of 215 indigenous children at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. In June, another 751 bodies were discovered on the grounds of Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.

These are not new or unknown deaths: They are long-forgotten graveyards. The Canadian government’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission noted that school administrators had buried children who died of disease in haste, “often in poorly marked graves.” When the schools shut down, the makeshift wooden grave markers decayed. What officials have uncovered is a cemetery, not a “mass grave.” One tribal chief said or Marieval, “This is not a mass gravesite. These are unmarked graves.” Yet The New York Times (“the newspaper of record”) and CNN (“the most trusted name in news”) both describe such areas as a “mass grave.” The reality is terrible enough without embellishment.

Instantly, vandals began targeting Catholic and Anglican churches, sometimes scrawling “215” or “751” on the buildings. But soon, any Christian would do. Obviously, Coptic immigrants never had anything to do with the indigenous school system. Neither did the Vietnamese, or recently formed Pentecostal or non-denominational congregations that have experienced the wrath of modern-day leftists bound to exact revenge for a sin these parishes never committed.

To their credit, tribal leaders have condemned the violence. “To burn things down is not our way,” said Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. “Our way is to build relationships and come together.”

These church burnings are not the explosive rage of the descendants of those harmed; they express the Canadian intelligentsia’s hatred of Christianity. Hearing of these acts of arson, the head of the B.C. [British Columbia] Civil Liberties Association tweeted, “Burn it all down.” Another attorney tweeted, “I would help defend anyone charged with arson if they actually did burn things.”

Despite the unhinged hatred towards Christian houses of worship taking place in our closest neighboring country, the U.S. media have said virtually nothing about it.

Fox News is an exception, having run a number of stories on their website. The highest-rated host on cable news, Tucker Carlson, interviewed Canadian journalist Ezra Levant about the string of anti-Christian vandalism and destruction on July 8. Shannon Bream reported on the tragedies on the July 15 edition of “Fox News @ Night.”

Unfortunately, that stands in stark contrast to the left-of-center cable news outlets. A Google search appears to show zero results for the church arson story on MSNBC, but the network ran two articles bemoaning the fact that U.S. Catholic bishops are considering telling pro-abortion Catholic politicians it is unwise to receive Holy Communion while facilitating the mortal sin of abortion. Rachel Maddow also interviewed Texas State Rep. Nicole Collier (D-95) on July 9, who praised local churches for organizing against the state’s voter integrity law. Apparently, denying the vote to non-citizens and the dead is a greater atrocity than the mass persecution of Canada’s largest faith community.

Similarly, CNN’s transcripts don’t record any mention of the church arsons on television. By contrast, CNN’s website has run four stories about the heartbreaking, but long-ago, residential school abuse, and Jake Tapper covered the abuse story on July 8. Thus far, CNN has posted only one story about the anti-Christian hate crimes — which may be worse than nothing. The second sentence describes the arsons as “the latest in a string of recent events affecting the country’s Indigenous communities,” rather than a string of arsons affecting the country’s Christian communities. CNN adds, “The churches were destroyed as Canada confronts its history of systemic abuse of [i]ndigenous communities with the recent discoveries of hundreds of human remains at the sites of two former boarding schools, which were operated by Catholic religious groups.”

That makes it sound like they kind of had it coming — a sentiment echoed by Canada’s left-wing prime minister, Justin Trudeau. The Liberal Party leader began his condemnation of the arsons by saying, “I understand the anger that is out there against the federal government and institutions like the Catholic Church. It’s real, and it is fully understandable.” Please don’t burn their churches — but who could blame you for wanting to?

And, as in the United States, the powers that be seem to indicate that they will make no effort to stop the arson, as long as rioters burn the “right” targets. If innocent brown people suffering PTSD from decades of persecution overseas are retraumatized, so be it. The arc of social justice bends slowly … .

The victims maintain their hope through supernatural faith and inspiration from the Word of God. “While we are in shock and devastated by this 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,” said Fr. Bisenty Gerges, the parish priest. “We reflect on the words of the prophet Amos who prophesized the words of God saying, ‘In that day, I will restore David’s fallen shelter — I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins and will rebuild it as it used to be’” (Amos 9:11).

The people of the West should also learn another verse from the Bible, Ezekiel 18:20: “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

Americans and Canadians must take that verse to heart before more of our cultural and moral capital burns. And the media must stop fanning the flames.


Ben Johnson (@therightswriter) is the Media Reporter at The Daily Wire. He previously worked at the Acton Institute, FrontPage Magazine, and LifeSiteNews. He’s the author of three books, including Party of Defeat (2008, with David Horowitz).

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

Update: The original article said that officials had found the “remains” of 215 students at a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. The officials, in fact, relied on ground radar to detect soil disturbances, and no excavations haven taken place. The number of soil disturbances was also reduced to 200. 

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