Another church has been set on fire in St Louis, Missouri, bringing the total number of churches attacked by suspected arsonists in the area to seven.
The latest to be attacked was the Shrine of St Joseph’s – a Roman Catholic parish.
Unlike most of the other churches to be attacked, which had predominantly African American congregations, the majority of those who attend Mass at St Joseph’s are white.
Local activists have previously linked the string of fires to white supremacist movements, saying, “It is a sad truth that, throughout our nation’s history, African-Americans often have been met with astounding violence when they demand equality… Those who commit this violence seek to instill fear. This is why arson against predominantly black churches has been a frequent tool of white supremacy.”
Most of the churches are only a few miles away from Ferguson, which has been the focus of national and international outcry over the treatment of black communities by law enforcement.
“We believe that this fire-setting activity is meant to send a message,” said John Ham of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Michele Brown, a member of St Augustine’s, one of the previous churches to be attacked, said of the attackers, “Most of us believe this is someone sick. We’ve prayed for them. We pray that they’ll stop. We also prayed that they’ll get some help.”