Jerusalem: Arson Attack on Baptist Church Centre
J e r u s a l e m - On the evening of 23rd October, the Baptist church centre in Jerusalem fell victim to an arson attack. Four congregations with a total of 500 visitors gather for worship services in the centre. An initial estimation by the insurance company reckons the damage totals 14.000 euros ($19.600 US). Forty chairs were destroyed in the fire, but fortunately no people were injured. No Bibles were damaged. Arsonists had started fires at three locations in the building, which belongs to the American Southern Baptists. Joseph A. Broom, the building’s administrator, reported that he knew of no threats prior to the attack. "We have had good relations with our Jewish neighbours and the Jewish congregations in the vicinity for years." An insurance investigator views the case as an incident of vandalism. Church Pastor Charles Koop added: "We all still need to learn the lessons of tolerance and to accept the differences among us." He assumes that extremists are to blame for the attack.
Viktor Blum, the Russian-speaking pastor of a congregation meeting in the building, expressed no surprise regarding the attack. "We have been receiving threats for years." Leaflets have been passed out in the vicinity of his flat describing his congregation as a "dangerous sect" bent on converting Jews to Christianity. Blum rejects the claim. The goal instead is to call new Russian immigrants back to their roots. "It is by no means our goal to make these people into Christians. Our evangelistic efforts our intended to place them within the context of their own history."
Blum suspects that the Yad LeAchim anti-missions league instigated the Hebrew and Russian-language leaflets. But the Pastor does not intend to be intimidated by the attack: "We will meet here again next weekend for a worship service." His congregation has approximately 100 members. Gideon Mamrot, head of an Orthodox-Jewish congregation across the street, condemned the act: "I am very, very pained by this attack."
The church centre had already been attacked by arsonists on 9 October 1982. The building had then burned down to its foundations. That time the Ultra-Orthodox culprits had been caught and sentenced.