#InThePress: 7 April 2011 – Ipswich Star
As work starts to make safe a church left gutted by a raging inferno, the owners are today launching a campaign to raise £500,000 to rebuild the structure.
St Michael’s Church in Upper Orwell Street went up in flames on March 7 after arsonists targeted the Victorian building.
Forced to stand and watch the church burn, owner Manwar Ali, chief executive of Islamic group Jimas, was left devastated after it emerged his £300,000 investment was not insured.
More than 30 years of savings went up in smoke as the fire destroyed the roof and left the building structurally volatile and dangerous to enter.
But Mr Ali refuses to be beaten and today is determined to see his dreams of a new community centre for Ipswich on the site become a reality.
He said work to make the building safe has now begun at a cost of about £30,000, removing the unstable remains of the destroyed roof to allow people to get inside to assess the full extent of the damage.
Then the hard work begins, raising £500,000 to fund the church’s transformation into a community hub for people of all faiths and people of no faith.
Mr Ali said: “A lot of people think it will be a mosque. We have to dispel and allay that fear.
“It will be a community centre for the people of Ipswich.”
He said the aim is to raise money over the next three years to allow the centre to be built.
“We don’t take money from the government or local government. We do not want to be a burden – we are independent. For us it is about contributing to society,” he added.
“We are determined to make sure this is something for everyone in Ipswich, it will be open to Christians, people of all religions, anyone who wants to use the centre for community events.”
Mr Ali said since the fire, they have been inundated with support. If you would like to help, call Mr Ali on 01473 251578 or visit him at the Ipswich Orego centre opposite the church in Upper Orwell Street.