The historic First Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama, prominent for its role in the civil rights movement of the 1960s was attacked by an arsonist at about 2 A.M. September 30th. The arsonist identified as Xiaoquin Yan, 27 of Auburn, AL was arrested on October 4th. Yan set four different fires throughout the church, in the receptionist’s office, the sanctuary, and the lobby. Her bail was initially set at $30,000 but has since been increased to $150,000 by District Judge Monet Gaines. Judge Gaines further ordered that “Yan should be evaluated and receive treatment, if necessary, for possible mental health concerns while incarcerated.” according to AlabamaNews.Net. The fires appeared to have been set with gasoline and an open flame based on surveillance footage, and the gasoline trail is evident in the flame-retardant carpet of the sanctuary. The damage to the church is estimated to be at least $25,000.
Local NBC Affliate WSFA reported,
“Lead Pastor Mark L. Bethea said someone entered the church during the overnight hours and set blazes inside the main sanctuary, in the historic Stakely Sanctuary and in some of the church’s office spaces.
Bethea said the fires had varying degrees of success. The reception office was destroyed.
At the foot of the cross in the sanctuary, the arsonist started a gasoline trail, making a winding walk up the center aisle. There were burn spots on the carpet of both sanctuaries and the flames destroyed some of the pews in the main sanctuary.”
Who Is Xiaoqin Yan And Why Was She Trying To Burn The Church Down?
FBC Montgomery Pastor Mark Bethea said “To my knowledge, this person was not part of our international fellowship at FBC (International Bible Fellowship and Worship, Conversational English, English as a Second Language, Citizenship Classes, etc…),” adding, “We deeply love and value our international brothers and sisters.”
According to NTDTV, “Yan Xiaoquin is a Chinese citizen who is studying in the United States on a student visa. Currently, her visa has been revoked.” Xiaoqin has been charged with Arson in the Second Degree which according to the Code of Alabama Section 13A-7-42 is a Class B felony and the possible sentence is 2-20 years. As of this writing, there is no indication as to what Xiaoquin’s motive was for her attack against a church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached.