A horrifying wave of vandalism and attacks against churches follows a call by a leader in the Black Lives Matter Movement but a Rabbi who lives in Judea is countering the violence with a call “for believers in God to band together and stand up for each other.”
Rev. Edivaldo da Silva, a parish priest of three years at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in West Kendall (Southwest Miami-Dade, Florida), entered his church on Wednesday only to discover to his dismay the statue of Jesus had been decapitated and toppled off its pedestal.
— Christian De La Rosa (@delarosaWPLG) July 16, 2020
“This incident has saddened the parish community,” the church said in a statement. “It is too soon to arrive at any conclusion, but we have seen other churches vandalized around the country. We totally ‘condemn’ this action. We invite our community to pray for peace.”
In a separate incident, a Catholic congregation in Ocala, several hours north of Miami, was targeted Saturday morning while preparing for Mass. A 24-year-old man was accused of ramming his vehicle into the church before setting it on fire. He was arrested and faces several charges, including attempted murder. Police said the perpetrator told them he was on a mission and was opposed to the Catholic Church.
On Saturday night, a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus, located outside the church of St. Peter’s Parish on Bowdin Street in the Dorchester neighborhood Boston was set on fire.
Rosary Vigil Response: Series of photos of #Boston #Catholics praying for the vandals who torched a statue of the #BlessedVirginMary in #Dorchester. #mapoli #bospoli Lots of people, parishioners, priests, and nuns. No politicians. pic.twitter.com/hhTnZb5Fua
— Louis L. Murray Jr (@LouisLMurrayJr1) July 15, 2020
A statue of Mary in the garden of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee was desecrated by having its head cut off. Police said they could not find the head of the statue, and that because the incident happened at a church it could possibly be viewed as a hate crime. Officials said Homeland Security was notified about the incident.
Also on Saturday, a fire ravaged the San Gabriel Mission in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a 249-year-old mission founded by St. Junípero Serra.
On July 10, the Diocese of Brooklyn announced that New York City police were investigating the vandalization of a 100-year-old statue of Mary at Cathedral Prep School and Seminary in Queens.
On June 19, June 20, and July 4, statues of St. Junipero Serra were toppled in three California cities.
These attacks come just two weeks after Shaun King, a controversial leader in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, called for expanding the destruction of statues of historical figures to include churches and the Christian figure of Jesus, who the New Testament describes as being a Jew from Bethlehem but King described as a “European.”
“Jews and Christians have a pretty horrific past but we are entering into a new era of history. The current rise in violence isn’t fueled by a desire to rid the world of racism, but a desire to rid the world of God. The time has come for believers in God to band together and stand up for each other.”
Also, last weekend, San Diego police officials said that a fire at Calvary Baptist church at 12:30 a.m. Sunday morning was “suspicious” and was being investigated by the department’s Metro Arson Strike Team.
An Israeli orthodox rabbi from Judea is calling on Jews around the world to stand up for Christian rights, as their religious freedoms are being threatened and attacked. Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel of the Land of Israel Fellowship, lives on a farm in Judea but he is deeply connected to Jews and Christians around the world through his educational initiative intended to teach Biblical wisdom and prayer to all seekers from backgrounds around the world.
“God Himself is under attack and all believers need to lock arms as we transition into this new stage of history,” Rabbi Gimpel said. “Synagogues are being vandalized, Churches are being attacked. What else needs to happen until believers realize that we are in the same boat and in a very deep sense are connected through our love of the Bible and our belief in the God of Israel.”
The rabbi’s assessment could not be more accurate. On Wednesday, two Reform synagogues in Sarasota, Florida, Temple Sinai and Temple Emanu-El, were vandalized with swastikas and other unspecified hateful messages. It is the second time that Temple Emanu El has been attacked in the last four months. In April, swastikas were spray painted on the doors of the synagogue.
The rabbi saw his multi-faith, multinational fellowship as the pre-House of Prayer for All Nations answer to this anti-God wave of hatred.
“The Arugot Farm is the first of it’s kind,” Rabbi Gimpel said. “The prophets of Israel envisioned that one day people from around the world would come and visit Israel, not to visit the beaches of Tel Aviv but to seek out God and spirituality. We are pioneering a new vision for Israeli tourism – Spiritual tourism.”
But all that stopped with the spread of the Corona Virus. International tourism ban.
“With our physical educational center shut down, we had to think out of the box. If we can’t bring people to Judea and immerse in them in a Biblical experience, we need to bring a Judean Biblical experience to the people.”
They started The Land of Israel Fellowship, a virtual gathering that has spread to hundreds of families from 26 different countries. With live sessions of Biblical teachings and prayer, they have established a platform that is uniting believers in God from many different backgrounds. Some are calling the Fellowship a virtual house of prayer for all nations.
“Most of the members of the Fellowship are Jews and Christians. We have one Catholic nun that joins us, one Buddhist and one Muslim. But we are a living example of believers uniting in these divisive times. Of course we have theological differences, but our unity and strength come our fundamental beliefs that transcend theology. We believe in one God, morality, family, that all people are created in the image of God. It is time that we allow the values and spirit of the Bible to unite us and not allow our theological understanding of religion divide us.”