The burning of three wooden crosses outside the Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church in the northern San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, on Thursday, July 6, 2023, is a grim reminder of the hate and intolerance that still exists in our society today. The incident, being investigated as a hate crime, serves as a wake-up call for us to unite as a society and work towards a more tolerant and inclusive future.
The Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church has been a part of the community for 28 years. It is a predominantly family-oriented church with a Spanish-language congregation and another predominantly African-American congregation. The church, a symbol of faith, hope, and love for the community, was targeted in a cowardly and heinous act of vandalism.
According to authorities, one of the three wooden crosses outside the church was knocked to the ground, and all three were burnt. Local authorities, including the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Fire Department, partnered with the FBI and ATF to investigate the incident as a potential hate crime. The FBI's Los Angeles field office expressed awareness of the incident and collaborated with the authorities. Additionally, the ATF sent investigators to the scene to assist with the investigation, a common protocol for the agency when a place of worship is involved in a crime, according to an ATF spokesperson.
The incident has sparked widespread condemnation and outrage from the community and religious leaders. Sylmar Christian pastor Pierre Howard stated, “It’s a shame that people still want to do things like this in this day and age,” Howard told reporters outside the church.
Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Los Angeles office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, thanked law enforcement for investigating the vandalism as a potential hate crime. “We strongly condemn this act of arson and stand in solidarity with the Black and Latino communities,” Ayloush said in a news release. “We express our support and deep concern for the congregation affected by this troubling incident. It is essential that we come together as a society to denounce all acts of violence targeting houses of worship and work towards fostering a society in which every individual may practice their faith without fear of persecution or prejudice.”
The burning of the three wooden crosses is not just an attack on the Sylmar Christian Fellowship Church but also an attack on the values of our society. It is a reminder that we still have a long way to go in eradicating hate and intolerance from our communities. We must come together as a society to denounce all acts of violence and work towards fostering a society in which every individual may practice their faith without fear of persecution or prejudice.
Acts of hate and intolerance have no place in our society. We must stand together and speak out against such acts of violence. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Let us unite as a society and spread love and tolerance to drive out hate and intolerance from our communities.