Catholic Bishop Héctor Vargas condemned the torching of yet another Evangelical church in the district of Ercilla, Chile, on April 10. While the government has lodged a penal complaint against the perpetrators, they remain unknown.
Bishop Vargas said such violent acts are particularly shocking, especially during Holy Week while Christians prepare to celebrate Easter.
Neighbors heard apparent gunshots in the middle of the night on April 10. By about 2 a.m., a raging fire consumed the Ejército Evangélico de Chile church. The approximately 60 members of the congregation also lost musical instruments, sound equipment, and Bibles. According to local authorities, the fire started in two locations within the wooeden church, which was quickly destroyed.
No pamphlets or other signs of the perpetrators were left behind to provide an idea of their motives.
The Intendant of La Araucanía, Miguel Hernández, denounced the arson and said that action can be expected in the court. Members of the Ejército Evangélico de Chile are reportedly reluctant to speak about the incident out of fear of retribution. Howerver, church spokesman , Benedicto Faúndez said the "deplorable" act will not be accepted.
A local community leader, Gastón Caminondo, questioned whether the government can guarantee the safety of residents in the region. "What we have here is terrorism that is overwhelming our police because the State has not assumed its role."
On December 21, there was an attack on a church in the area. In total, there have been four churches destroyed in recent months: one in Padre Las Casas and three in Ercilla.
Ercilla is the poorest town in Chile.