Churches employ armed guards amid surge in attacks

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Churches are now employing armed private security guards following a spate of attacks at places of worship. That’s in an attempt to protect their congregants and properties.

Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority says security personnel, whose companies are registered with them, should be supplied with firearms licenses.

Church leaders say the surge in attacks is reflective of the worsening crime situation in the country and should be dealt with decisively.

Criminals storm the pulpit, armed with guns before robbing the pastor and his congregants of their belongings. That was an act unheard of, for criminals to desecrate what many deem as a sacred place. But the country has seen a spate of these brazen attacks with increasing regularity.

“Why would people go to church to steal, it’s a place to pray, praise and worship god,” a congregant says.

“If govt can help with police visibility to ensure that everyone attending is safe,” a congregant explains.

“We urge communities to start working together with CPF’s especially young to add to the members that are already there,” a congregant elaborates.

Recently, a pastor was killed on the pulpit, and criminals are widening their nets. Churches are now cancelling evening services. Many are also installing CCTV cameras and hiring private security guards as crime rises.

Shiloh family church Bishop Kelly Tsedu-Muntswu says, “It’s ideal for churches to have security personnel but it’s costly. These criminals are not only looking for money but they also for musical instruments and other it-related gadgets. Gauteng should attach crime prevention warders to assist with visibility in communities.”

Tsedu-Muntswu says crime should be treated with the urgency it deserves.

“For the church to stop with night vigils is an injustice and unsustainable violation of human rights. These attacks are aimed at instilling fear and the church should now definitely bow in.”

Freedom of Religion South Africa, a non-profit legal organisation, says the government should roll up its sleeves.

“It is the responsibility of govt and the SA police services in particular to ensure the people are able to exercise their constitutional right to gather together to worship without the fear of interruption from criminal elements. We call upon the authorities to straighten their law enforcement efforts to make sure that places of worship are not seen as soft targets and to make every effort to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice,” says Michael Swain, Freedom of Religion SA.

Gauteng Community Safety officials have recently warned the public against criminals who see gatherings and churches as soft targets for theft and robbery. They’ve encouraged churches to work with community policing forums for protection.

Meanwhile, the CRL Commission says it will soon engage with faith-based organisations to map a way forward.