Catholic Church in Chile Calls for Peace after Arson Attack Destroys Chapel of Our Lady

In Chile, a new arson attack destroyed a chapel in the Chilean Araucanía:
The chapel of Nuestra Señora de los Rayos, between Victoria and Curacautín, in the Chilean region of La Auraucanía. It was totally destroyed and reduced to ashes, in an incendiary attack by Mapuche groups. At least eight people doused the structure with flammable liquid and set it on fire. The attack was claimed by the Resistencia Mapuche Malleco group.

Around midnight on Saturday March 4, at least eight people participated in the attack, according to data collected by the police. The criminals sprayed the structure with flammable liquid and subsequently set it on fire. They then escaped from the place.

Neighbors in the area gave notice to the firefighters and the police, who had difficulties accessing the place, due to the fact that shots were fired in the vicinity. 

Magdalena Lira, national director of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), declared: “The neighbors came out and saw in dismay how the building was reduced to ashes. They are very upset, they do not understand the reasons for the attack”.

“The flames consumed the building in a matter of minutes, leaving the community, made up mostly of Mapuche families, without a place of worship for their activities. The small chapel had been built in 1952 by the neighbors, hence the pain they felt when they saw it burn. The police only found remains of the metal roof, and the occasional tape that survived the fire, but there is little left to identify it as a religious building," Lira explained, adding: "By a small miracle, a small plaster image of Mary was found intact , which had been stored for a long time in a nearby cave.

This is the second arson attack awarded by the Mapuche Malleco Resistance, after the one that occurred on February 20 in the town of Traiguén, also in La Araucanía, where a group of around six hooded men burned three forestry vehicles.
Attacks on churches are on the rise in Chile, and the chapel incident is just the latest in a series of attacks on Christian sites in the country.

According to the report Libertad Religiosa, in AIN's World 2021, 59 churches were damaged or vandalized throughout Chile between October 2019 and October 2020, of which six were Protestant and 53 Catholic.

The director of ACN Chile explained that "many of these attacks occurred in October 2019, due to the civil unrest that took place in the country at that time, but even before that there were several attacks in the Araucanía area, linked to subversive groups that claim to defend the Mapuches, the indigenous people of this region. These are minority groups of violent radicals, who do not represent the majority of Mapuches”.

"Many of these chapels - concluded Lira - were built with great effort by the communities, like this one that has just been burned. Can you imagine the pain and impotence of these people when they see how the fire destroyed something that they built and cared for with so much care? devotion? A church is not just walls: it encloses the memory of a community that has lived its religious life around it.+
(Edited from )
FULL TEXT +++++++++Public Statement of the   Diocese of Temuco
5 March, 2023
The Priest, Fr. Juan Andrés Basly Erices, Diocesan Administrator together with the entire community, deeply regrets the fire that affected tonight, on Saturday, March 4, 2023, the Nuestra Señora de los Rayos chapel, located in the California sector and belonging to to the parish community of San Francisco de Asís in Selva Oscura.
On this day, on which SS Pope Francis, celebrates ten years of his pontificate, we echo his words of the message he delivered in his visit to these lands of Araucania, where he manifests that "Violence calls violence, destruction increases fracture and separation. Violence ends up lying the most righteous cause. That's why we say "no to violence that destroys," in neither of its forms." We emphasize the call for peace and unity, our people and their communities are suffering a lot, it is pain and anguish in addition to acts of violence and destructive.
The entire diocesan community regrets these events and reiterates the call for peace and tranquility of conscience, thinking that acts of violence never lead to anything and that through dialogue and solidarity it will be possible to overcome the situations of injustice that occur in La Araucanía.
As the People of God, we continue to pray for our people and their communities and we invoke Saint Joseph, Patron of the Diocese, his protection for all and in this Lenten season, we invite you to live conversion and transform our hearts.
Communications Department
Bishopric of Temuco
Temuco, March 5, 2023