The iconic Jesus Dome of Durban, South Africa, was completely engulfed in flames Tuesday night, leaving a skeleton of the once-towering Christian Centre. The faithful congregated in prayer around the fire last night, singing hymns and vowing to rebuild.
“There was a loud noise and suddenly I saw these huge flames‚ leaping from the roof. I was so sure it was a terror attack,” Ranjith Singh, a member of the church, told South Africa’s The Times. Singh lives across the street from the church and said the fires were so hot his apartment felt like it was burning.
“People are saying it’s an electrical fault but I believe otherwise. It seemed like a terror attack‚ but only investigations will reveal what caused the fire,” he concluded.
Entire Jesus Dome pic.twitter.com/wWNDeotqVe
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“The closest comparison I can make to what I am looking at right in front of me now is it looks like the twin towers have come down all over again,” Andreas Mattios, the former TV producer at the Durban Christian Centre, told reporters on Tuesday night.
The faithful gathered as close to the fire on Tuesday night to pray and sing hymns, multiple reports note.
“The Bible Institute is fine, but it is unbelievable that such an iconic building can get burnt so quickly. I have been wondering what is going to happen now and where we are going to hold our services,” Sthe Madlala, another member of the church, told the South African outlet IOL. IOL notes that, while no one was physically injured in the fire, National Emergency Assist Services director Regan Stander described church members and officials as “traumatised as you would expect.”
IOL reported that “an electricity fault” triggered the fire, though police have yet to make any public conclusions regarding what occurred. The report quotes police spokeswoman Nqobile Gwala as confirming that there is no evidence leaning in any particular direction regarding the cause of the fire, as there has not yet been enough time to investigate.
Police told The Times that they will be examining surveillance video evidence to confirm that terrorism was not involved in the case. Officials at the Durban Christian Centre, however, have already ruled out an attack. “We don’t suspect any foul play,” head pastor John Torrens told the newspaper.
Torrens has attempted to keep the spirits of the faithful high despite the tragedy. “The church is not about a building but about the people who worship here,” he told The Times. The church has received an invitation to use the neighboring King’s Park Rugby stadium for services this Sunday and will erect a tent on the now-vacant lot where the Jesus Dome stood following cleanup for services.
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In a video titled “United We Stand” and posted to Vimeo, Torrens and his wife, Joy, thank God for the lack of injuries and the support they have received from the community. “This is such a great sense of unity that we are experiencing,” Torrens says. “We are sensing God bringing about a sense of unity.”
Supporters on social media have also used Twitter to send prayers to church members and officials. Members themselves have expressed hope in the potential of renewal from the tragedy.
The structure might be burnt down but the church is very much alive. #JesusDome
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