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Members of Canadian Coptic Church Shocked by Senseless Destruction

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A priest celebrating Mass holds up a cross. (Laszlo Balogh/Reuters)

Members of the St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey, British Columbia, were shocked to discover that the church burned to the ground on Monday morning, the latest in a rash of church burnings and vandalism across Canada in recent weeks.

“It’s been an extremely tragic and difficult event for us to grasp and to wrap our heads around,” Steven Faltas, a board member for St. George church, told National Review “Somewhere between 300 and 400 families attended this church quite regularly, with nearly-daily services and activities being offered. So for it to overnight not be there anymore has been extremely difficult for us to deal with and to absorb.”

Several churches have burned to the ground in Canada in recent weeks, with additional churches and a statue of St. John Paul vandalized. The incidents occurred across hundreds of miles, from British Columbia all the way to Nova Scotia.

The burnings and vandalism began after First Nation tribes discovered unmarked graves at the sites of former so-called Indian residential schools. These schools were established in the 1830s to assimilate indigenous children into Canadian society, and some continued to operate until the 1990s.

A 2015 government commission found that the residential school system constituted a “cultural genocide,” and former pupils have detailed allegations of sexual and physical abuse at the schools. Over 1,000 unmarked graves were discovered by various tribes over the past several months.

A majority of the schools were operated by the Catholic Church in Canada. Most of the churches that have burned to the ground since the discoveries of unmarked graves were Catholic, such as the 100-year-old St. Jean Baptiste Church in Morinville, Alberta.

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