Crime grips worshippers

| August 22, 2010

Community and religious leaders have noted a decline in attendance figures at prayer services recently as places of worships are increasingly being targeted.

This week, the brutal rape of two Hindu devotees at a temple and the shooting of two congregants at a church – both in Bayview, Chats- worth – sparked outrage in the community.

Police spokesman Lieutenant- Colonel Vincent Mdunge said a task team had been set up to investigate crimes at places of worship in areas such as Verulam, KwaDukuza, Chatsworth, Pinetown and Cliffdale.

"The task team is made up of highly trained and experienced investigators, who are already investigating the attacks. They will also be assisted by an intelligence team on the ground to monitor the movement of criminals and their intentions," he said.

The recent attacks have prompted religious leaders to hold a series of meetings with worshippers at temples, churches and mosques in a bid to address the growing problem.

One of the proposed solutions, said Chatsworth ANC councillor Visvin Reddy, was to employ armed guards to safeguard people at places of worship.

Reddy said he had been inundated with calls from pastors, priests and moulanas, who were concerned about the dwindling numbers of worshippers.

"They told me that worshippers are very concerned about crime, and they all wanted to know what religious leaders were doing about it so that they can feel free to worship at their sites," he said.

Lazarus Pillay of Christian Indian Network International said pastors had been considering employing private security guards to patrol outside churches.

He said his congregation had been warned not to attend services with cellphones, jewellery, money or luxury cars.

His church, Salt and Sunshine in Malvern, was robbed a few months ago.

"Attendance at our prayer nights during the week has dropped significantly because people feel they have to be more cautious. Sunday mornings are the same," he said.

Marcus Narsigan of the KwaZulu-Natal Tamil Federation condemned the attacks.

He said it was difficult to find a solution to the crime problem because temples with security were still being attacked.

"People are scared now, and they don't want to go to service. Numbers are dwindling, but not drastically," he said.

Bobby Naidu, president of the Andhra Maha Sabha of South Africa, said: "We tell devotees not to wear jewellery when coming to the temple because it's unsafe. People are in constant fear.

"At the Sabha's Camper Drive premises in Chatsworth, vehicles have been stolen, despite us having a security company.

"No matter what security we have, criminals still find a way. They operate in gangs. Maybe if we had visible policing, it would be a deterrent," said Naidu.

Moulana Rafeek Shah said if the government could not protect innocent citizens at prayer, "they don't deserve to be in power".

"If a person cannot be safe in a place of worship, then you know law and order has deteriorated and hit rock bottom. It shows we are failing to address the issue of crime. It should be condemned in the strongest terms," he said.

"Are people supposed to carry weapons to places of worship to protect themselves? Is that the level to which this society has morally deteriorated?"

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Category: Church Security

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