Arsonist Started Fire Beneath Statue of Our Lady of Fatima at Catholic Pregnancy Center; FBI: 'Could Be' Hate Crime

Lauretta Brown | November 28, 2016 | 12:14pm EST
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Screen captured image of fire damage in the chapel at the Project Defending Life's chapel in Albuquerque, N.M. (Screen capture from KOB4 broadcast.)

( – Project Defending Life, a Catholic pro-life pregnancy center in Albuquerque, N.M., was targeted by an arson attack last Tuesday in what is being described as a possible hate crime by an FBI spokesman.

The arsonist started one fire within the facility's chapel beneath a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

“Hate crime could be on the table, depending on what we find,” Frank Fisher, an FBI spokesman, told the Albuquerque Journal. The FBI is assisting the Albuquerque Fire Department in the investigation.

“Authorities notified us around midnight that there was a break-in and fire in our facility, leading fire Marshalls to call the FBI who confirmed this was an act of arson.”  Dominique Davis, director of client services at Project Defending Life, said in a statement Wednesday.

“The arsonist has not been identified, but it has been confirmed that they set two fires within the facility,” the statement added. “The first fire was started inside the Holy Innocents chapel, which destroyed the chapel. The second fire was located in the foyer where our literature and signs were displayed. The extent of the damages has still not been confirmed, although the facility has suffered great damage and currently has no power."

The Albuquerque Journal reported: “In the Holy Innocents chapel, a fire had been set on the altar beneath a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and another was started on one of the half-dozen pews."

A newscast by KOB4 on Nov. 24 showed images of the charred chapel and the statue of Our Lady.

Davis said they are “extremely grateful that no one was hurt” and that “while this intentional evil act was meant to scare us and inhibit us from doing our work, those who committed this crime can be assured it has not. There are still many women in need of assistance and support, not including the 15 women we are currently helping with housing, job placement, and parenting support. While our building may be finished, we are not, and we will find another place to set up.”

“They might have thought because we’re pro-life we shame women and want to take away rights,” Davis told the Albuquerque Journal regarding possible motives.

“We are disgusted by this hate crime committed against Project Defending Life, a peaceful organization whose only aim is to help women facing unplanned pregnancies, and we are so thankful that no one was injured,” said Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, an organization that frequently volunteers with the center.

“The domestic terrorists who committed this heinous act must be found and brought to justice. Planned Parenthood of ABQ and other pro-abortion forces must denounce this act immediately. Violence has no place in our society, regardless of whether it is committed upon the most defenseless preborn child or a peaceful pro-life office.”

Respect New Mexico Women, a coalition of organizations that include Planned Parenthood New Mexico, released a statementWednesday condemning the violence.

“Respect New Mexico Women and the many groups affiliated with it condemn any acts of violence perpetrated in our community,” they wrote. “The report of arson against Project Defending Life is unwelcome news today. We are compelled to speak out against violence of any kind, even when directed at those who may share different values and beliefs.”

“Respect New Mexico Women offers Project Defending life positive thoughts and prayers during this difficult time,” they concluded.

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