Hours after the first in-person service in more than a year, a fire caused damage to the exterior and interior of the House of Prayer Alliance Church.
On Sunday at about 7:20 p.m., the Calgary Fire Department extinguished the fire and determined that no one was inside the building after responding to reports of a church on fire in Forest Lawn.
The Calgary police Arson Unit is working closely with the Fire Department investigators to determine the cause of the fire and if it was intentionally set.
“We came [to the church] and this is what we saw. You can see the damage, and it is very terrifying,” said Quan Luu, secretary of the House of Prayer Alliance Church.
“We have been waiting for over a year to come back to the church … we still don’t know what we’re going to do. It’s really frustrating and stressful for all of us.”
While the Vietnamese Evangelical Church waits to hear what the police find from their investigation, they’re unsure of what they’ll do going forward, Luu said.
The majority who attend the House of Prayer Alliance Church in Calgary are refugees from Vietnam.
“This is a real shock to us … we saw the church on fire, which has never happened in Vietnam,” Luu said.
Effects on upcoming services
It’s unknown how long the church will take to fix, due to the extensive damage the fire caused to the inside of the church.
The church may have to resort to going back online. It’s not ideal since the restrictions have now lifted and they would like to meet up in person, Luu said.
“What I’m feeling right now is so depressed, stressed and the loss of confidence,” Luu said.
“The government should do something better to protect us, to protect all of the churches. If the government doesn’t do anything further to protect us, it’s going to be scary for the people.”
Possible links to recent church vandalism
According to a statement from the Calgary Police Service, the event is also being investigated for any possible connections to the vandalism of 11 churches, where orange and red graffiti was placed on the exterior of the churches.
“We are very aware of the current tensions in the community around residential schools and the acts of vandalism and arson that have been occurring. We will examine whether there is any connection in this case, but we are asking people in the meantime to be patient while we work to figure out what exactly happened,” the statement read.
“While it is currently unclear if this fire is connected to the recent residential school events, we want to assure the community that we are committed to working towards peaceful reconciliation while still performing our duties of upholding the law and protecting public safety.”