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Church arsonist doubts God will forgive him

May 19, 2010

from Alexandra Zabjek's article in the Edmonton Journal:

A man who torched two Wetaskiwin churches in what a judge described as a "totally senseless wanton act of destruction" was sentenced Thursday to four years in prison.

But he was offered hope by one of the ministers whose church was destroyed.

"We have not been abandoned and we don't want you, Peter Terence Jones, to feel abandoned," Wetaskiwin First United Church minister Ruth Lumax told the 24-year-old arsonist in her victim impact statement, which was read in court.

....Lumax said her congregation wants to contact Jones through a restorative justice program in a bid to keep him out of trouble. She addressed Jones several times in court and said she would be willing to accompany him in a process of reconciliation.

"I was hoping he was hearing what I was saying, that we don't hold vengeance toward him," Lumax said outside court.

....Jones falls into a category of arsonists described as "thrill seekers," said a psychologist who assessed him. Jones admitted to being fascinated by the glow of fires when he was younger and was previously implicated in a fire at his mother's condominium.

The judge said Jones is at high risk of reoffending.

"The first arson was reckless, if not intentional. The second arson was beyond reckless; it was done with the intention of burning the church down," he said.

Parishioners at the United Church have been worshipping in different locations since the fire, Lumax said. The arson has caused the community to come together in new ways.

The United Church is planning to rebuild on the same location and to be open by Christmas 2011. It is not known what will happen to the Lutheran Church.

Read the whole article.

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