The Royal Barbados Police Force is calling on churches to step up their security and implement precautionary measures to prevent sacrilege, following the latest break-in at the St Barnabas Anglican Church over the weekend.
Police public relations officer Inspector David Welch made the appeal as he told Barbados TODAY that from January to August this year there were 11 reported cases of sacrilege, compared to 12 for the same period last year. There were 16 cases for all of 2013.
Welch said while the statistics did not show an increase in sacrilege, he urged those in charge of places of worship to utilize the force’s Crime Prevention Department to conduct security surveys to properly secure valuables that could easily be stolen.
“We can also advise [management of] places of worship to foster relationships with neighbouring households close by, so that they can assist in keeping watch over the buildings,” he said.
Head of the Barbados Christian Council Monsignor Vincent Blackett endorsed Welch’s advice and indicated that the matter, if not controlled, had the potential to get worse.
He said with the recent increase in unemployment and growing number of substance abuse cases people, the church would not be off limits.
Blackett also urged places of worship to protect their properties with security systems and keep doors closed when necessary, among other precautionary measures.
“Protect your properties, especially when you have valuable things. The Pope is saying that we should not close our churches and we should have them opened for who wants to come and pray, but the thing is that we might also have to have people there on the spot guarding . . . People are not only breaking into the churches but they are also coming to church when worship is going on and breaking into people’s cars,” he said.
Whoever was responsible for the break-in at St Barnabas, which occurred between Saturday night and Sunday morning, took a computer after ransacking the office of the rector Reverend Mark Harewood, the vestry and the altar.
Harewood said it was the fourth time in his 11 years at the church that it had experienced a break-in. On other occasions, solar panels were stolen and there were attempts to break into the church’s Senior Citizens’ Day Care Centre.
He indicated that the scarilege caused members to feel distressed and violated.
“Here it is that people are trying to do positive things and you get this kind of situation. People coming to church to worship and seeing that first thing in the morning is not a good feeling. They view their church as the house of God where they spend quality time,” he said.
Meanwhile, Reverend John Rogers of St Luke’s Anglican Church said while he strongly believed that society was still very respectful of the church and what it offered, there was a current climate of desperation in Barbados that caused “people to do desperate things.”
“If you have something valuable at the church, protect it as you would do at your home. It is not prudent religiously to believe that you can leave the church open and all would be well because that would be foolhardy. I think it would be wise to protect your properties and I know that some churches have invested in security systems and that is what we should do,” he said.