PHILADELPHIA — A church in Philadelphia was set on fire on Tuesday night during the second night of riots following the death of a black man with mental health issues, who was shot by police after he walked toward them with a knife despite orders to drop it.
According to Baptist Press, Philip Pham, pastor of Vietnam Baptist Church, received a phone call from a member of the church whose friend saw the building on fire and fire trucks surrounding it.
“I have no idea why they attacked our church,” he told the outlet. “They burned it from the roof. They threw flammable chemicals on the roof, and [flames] burned through the roof” and then down inside the facility.
As the church had also been used as a place to help the community, such as with filing immigration paperwork or their taxes, and also for marriage counseling, Pham said that he was concerned most about the hard drives inside, which contained all of the files from his charitable efforts.
“I prayed right away, ‘God, please protect the hard drives,’” he remembered. “Other stuff can be recovered, but those files will never be recovered.”
When Pham was able to enter the building, he saw that God had answered his prayer.
“I saw the routers and modems and things surrounding the hard drives all burned, melted,” he outlined. “But that piece of hard drive, no harm. No harm at all. Just two feet above that, all melted. … That is amazing how God knows our needs and answers our prayers. He is an almighty God.”
Pham has now asked for prayers for the members, some of whom are afraid of the violence. He also shared a message for the youth who were engaging in violence on the streets:
“The anger of man does not bring about the righteousness of God,” Pham said, quoting James 1:20. “You cannot use your anger and be justified.”
“Just do right,” he told his congregation. “Don’t copy [those who practice violence], but do what the Bible says and what He wants us to do. Love them and pray for them that they may know Christ, that the Holy Spirit may convict them and they may seek God.”
According to reports, on Monday, Philadelphia police responded to a phone call seeking assistance, and after they arrived, they found Walter Wallace, Jr. holding a knife. After instructing the man to drop the weapon, and backing away from Wallace, police shot him numerous times as he walked toward them.
Wallace’s family says that he had mental health issues and that they had asked for an ambulance instead of the police. They also contend that the police should have used tasers instead of guns. Commissioner Danielle Outlaw advised following the incident that the officers didn’t have tasers, according to NBC Philadelphia.
The matter resulted in an estimated 1,000 people taking to the streets to engage in rioting and looting, with video footage even showing one man wheeling a washing machine on a dolly through the parking lot of a looted shopping plaza.