May 3, 2016

Arson Is Suspected in Adventist Church Fire in Guadeloupe

Inter-American Division

Arson is suspected in a fire that damaged a Seventh-day Adventist church in Guadeloupe, a French territory in the southern Caribbean Sea.

Local police have opened a criminal investigation into the April 17 blaze at the Baie-Mahualt Adventist Church near Pointe-á-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s largest city, said Jacques Bibrac, executive secretary for the Adventist Church in Guadeloupe.

No one was injured in the Sunday fire. Police have not identified any suspects or possible motives.

“As soon as neighbors saw smoke from the church, they called the fire station,” Bribac said. “So we are thankful that the fire was put out before more damage was caused to the church.”

The fire damaged part of the roof, an upper room storing musical instruments, an organ, and the church’s sound system. The cost of the fire is under evaluation by the church’s insurer.

If arson is confirmed, it will be the first time that one of the 75 Adventist congregations in Guadeloupe has been targeted in such an attack, Bibrac said.

The first Adventist church opened in Guadeloupe more than two decades ago. Today, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Guadeloupe has more than 12,000 church members.

After the insurer calculates the cost of the fire, church members will clean up the mess and start to rebuild, Bibrac said.

Meanwhile, church members have been meeting in homes in small groups for Sunday and Wednesday evening prayer meetings and at a community center on Saturdays for worship services.

“In spite of what has happened, our members know that we are God’s children and we have to move forward, finding good solutions to rebuild the church and continue serving the community,” Bibrac said.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is well respected by the people of Guadeloupe, he added.

“They recognize our values and what we do for the children, young people, and society in general,” he said.

The Baie-Mahualt Adventist Church has been active in the community with health programs, concerts, Adventurer and Pathfinder activities, and more.

A second congregation, the Calvaire Adventist Church, had been using the premises of the Mahualt Adventist Church for the past three years as it waited for construction to finish on its own church building.

Bibrac said church members were not dismayed by the fire.

“We are a big family, so we can count on each other through this situation and continue to be of good courage,” he said.