Following several suspicious fires, members of the Syrian Orthodox St Maria’s church in Norrköping say they will begin patrolling the area around the church at night to avoid further potential attacks.
The move comes after the church received a fire alarm on Sunday night as a fire had broken out in the assembly room of the church, the second suspicious fire in a month according to Isa Gergin, spokesman and caretaker for the Syrian Orthodox Church, SVT reports.
“On the third of December, it was the same. Someone had poured gasoline on the outside and lit it. But the emergency services were quickly in place,” Gergin said.
Commenting on Sunday’s fire, Gergin said: “We have not gone through all the damage yet, but the building has survived and internally it is only smoke damaged.”
Swedish Shia Muslims Express Fear over Returning Islamic State Fighters https://t.co/1DvzsNUt4s
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The two fires are not the first time the building has been victim to a suspected arson attack. in August 2018, police investigated another incident but according to Gergin, the church officials had not heard anything back from the police.
“I think they have closed the investigation. Personally, I think there is a connection,” Gergin said.
St. Jacob of Nisbin Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Hovsjö is also stepping up security efforts with the Swedish government giving the church SEK 122,000 (£9,800/$12,900) towards 14 surveillance cameras as part of a scheme to help religious communities under threats of violence and harassment.
Church attacks in Sweden are relatively uncommon in general but attacks on communities targetted by radical Islamic Sunni extremists, such as Syrian Christians and Shi’ite Muslims, are a concern in the country.
Last year in March, Omran Hashem of the Shia Ahl Al-Bait Cultural Centre in the Oxhagen district of Örebro said that many Shi’ites across Sweden were concerned about the return of Islamic State members, saying they had previously been threatened and harassed by Sunni extremists in the past.