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Churches Are Burning!

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In October 1998, the Departments of Justice and Treasury published the long-awaited second report to the President on church burnings.The report covered the time period from January 1, 1995 to September 8, 1998. In this time period the Task Force reported:
  • 670 cases of "proven" arson.
  • Another 105 cases of "undetermined" or suspicious fires.
  • 315 cases of accidental burnings.

This report says that over a church a day burned or was bombed. Were you aware of this? Quaker publications such as Friends Journal and Quaker Life were the first national publications to report these disturbing statistics as the national media seems as unconcerned about the report as they have been about the burnings themselves.

The report also says that 112 churches have been rebuilt or are rebuilding and cites the Quaker and Mennonite leadership in this effort. Still, this report specifies many more churches that will need assistance and the money to help rebuild has run dry from individual, corporate and philanthropic sources. Without a renewed awareness of this crisis, most of the churches burned will not see the light of rebuilding. Please help spread awareness of this report and its sobering implications. The report is available online at http://www.atf.treas.gov/pub/arson98.htm.

The following newspaper articles document this continuing tragedy:

QWI's Ministry to Burned Churches

Since 1996, first as Washington Quaker Workcamps and then as the spin-off organization Quaker Workcamps International, we have helped rebuild. We organize workcamps in which volunteers work alongside church members to construct a church. The healing power of these workcamps is tremendous. So far (as WQW and QWI) we have helped rebuild six churches.

"...Finally, we all stood below on scaffolding or on the roof, and the steeple was lifted hand by blessed hand until, with a little jiggling and juggling the bolts slipped into the holes and it was secured in place. Many tears of unashamed joy streamed down the brothers' and sisters' faces as we joined hands, black and white, old and young, men and women, and circling the church sang Amazing Grace together. This sacred trust was fulfilled. Out of the ashes of hate had risen a new steeple of God's house, dedicated to the love which overcomes all hate."

-Harold Confer, August 1996

Interfaith Witness

Although many of the burned churches are Southern Baptist, and our organization originated with the Quakers, the work we are doing transcends any single religion.

"We are thrilled to find the same God in so many places being revealed in so many different ways...Throughout more than a year of church rebuilding we have been blessed with over 700 rebuilders who have joined us in our mission to rebuild burned churches. There have been agnostics, Baptists, Brethren, Buddists, Catholics, Congregationalists, Christian Scientists, Episcopalians, Friends, Hindus, Followers of Islam, Jews, Lutherans, Mennonites, Methodists, Mormons, Presbyterians, Unitarian Universalists, United Church of Christ members and some Parsees who trace their religious roots back to the followers of Zoroaster; who were also children of the light!"

-Harold Confer, 1997


Our work so far has earned us many awards. But there is still much work to be done.

Letter from Bill Clinton, July 12 1996

1996 Southern Christian Leadership Conference Kelly Miller Smith Interfaith Award: "To Harold Confer and the Quakers for outstanding witness beyond denominational boundaries in the rebuilding of burned churches."

1997 National Coalition of Burned Churches, Racial Justice and Domestic Tranquility Partner in Achievement Award: "In appreciation for the devoted volunteer labor in rebuilding burned churches well before their plight was broadly known..."

Quaker Workcamps International
1225 Geranium St., NW
Washington, DC 20012
(202) 722-1461 Office
(202) 723-5376 Fax
Director: Harold Confer
website maintained by: Larry Clarkberg

last updated 10/10/00