The altar of the St. Jude Parish Church in Koblerville was set on fire midday last Sunday but only a portion of the altar was charred as the fire was put out as soon as neighbors noticed the church’s broken door and the smoke.
The St. Jude Parish Church was broken into last Sunday, believed to be between 1pm and 2:30pm, by an unknown suspect who put a portion of the altar on fire. Nothing was reported stolen.
The suspect also left what seemed to be a goat or dog skull below the 10 commandments monument just outside the church, by the social hall.
The Department of Public Safety has yet to release an official statement about the incident.
According to church pastor Rev. James Balajadia, there are no surveillance cameras around the area so there is no visual footage.
Balajadia said the incident happened on Sunday between 1pm to 2:30pm following Mass and parish fellowship. Balajadia was informed of the incident by a neighbor and Parish deacon Sam Benavente.
Blajadia said he observed at the scene that the altar cloth cover was set on fire but, because a wax candle was used, it died out on its own. The doors were also left broken and the entire parish was smoky while the altar was charred.
“I don’t think they were trying to burn down the church but, I don’t know. He could have come with kerosene or gasoline. They could have done much worse than just trying to light something,” said Balajadia.
He said that, as upsetting as the scene was, he only hopes that the person behind it gets help.
“It’s upsetting but it shows that this person really needs help and, whatever they’re going through, we’re here, we know there are other agencies on Saipan that want to help him and this just shows that there are people who are really struggling right now,” he said.
Balajadia has mixed emotions about the incident—saddened by the break-in but also grateful that no one was hurt is.
“it could be worse and I still walk away with gratitude. it’s just sad and it’s upsetting to see but, at the same time, I’m grateful that it didn’t happen during one of our youth events, which we have here every week…or even during Mass when there are a lot of children and elderly who are really vulnerable,” he said.
Balajadia is urging anyone who may have any leads to come forward for justice’s sake and for the suspect to get help.