MESA, Ariz. – Police are investigating recent reports of arson at places of worship in Mesa.
Several churches and worship centers have found burned or burning Bibles on their property over the past few weeks, according to police. All of the fires have occurred overnight.
"They were sending a message -- we reject Christ by burning the Bible and we lift up Satan," said Pastor Mark Rice with Mesa Baptist Church.
Police are classifying these incidents as bias crimes.
"That's been the story of Christianity. I don't take it as a personal attack, a personal affront as much as I recognize the battle of good and evil," Rice said. "And I'm on the good side, the God side and we're hoping that we can really help these people."
The suspect is described as a white or Hispanic male with dark hair, in his late teens to early 20s with an average height and build. He has been seen carrying a dark backpack and wearing knee-length shorts, a short-sleeved shirt, white gym shoes and dark gloves.
Call police with any information about this individual.
Police have the following advice for Mesa clergy:
If you see something burning on your property, call 911. Extinguish it as soon as possible. If possible, move it away from any building or vegetation. After the fire is out, do not touch it. Keep it protected until the police and fire departments arrive.
If the item is burned and the fire is out, call 644-2211, select option 2, and report the situation. Do not touch anything. Keep it protected until the police and fire departments arrive.