The St. John Parish of the Assyrian Church of the East diocese in Chicago has been burned in an apparent hate-crime targeted at the predominantly middle-eastern membership of the church.
The incident occured at about 3:55 A.M. on Sunday, September 23rd 2001. Police were called to St. John's Assyrian American Church in the 1400 block of West Lawrence Avenue by a passerby who saw smoke and flames erupting from the roof of the church.
The church's pastor, Qashisha Charles Klutz, said he believed the fire was started by someone who pushed a wad of paper through a mail slot and dropped a match onto it.
Firefighters contained the blaze to the west side of the building, bringing it under control by 4:20 a.m., Rev. Klutz said.
The fire is being investigated as an arson, said police spokesman Matthew Jackson. The Police Civil Rights Division is investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. Damages are being estimated at around $200,000.
Parishioners are fearful that their community may be subject to further retaliatory attacks.
Marvin Odeshoo is a parishoner and a Korean War veteran. He said "we're from the Middle-East, but this is our country, we wouldn't do anything to harm the country at all."
Sunday services were cancelled because of the damage to the church.
A video documenting the damage to the church building can be viewed at: http://assyria.nineveh.com/video/StJohn.html