Whether or not we like it, the conservative, genteel society of Barbados is fast disappearing.
More and more we see it: the lack of courtesy, the violent manner in which we settle our conflicts, and the poor treatment of our elderly, our women and our children. We could belabour the point, but to what end?
More than anything else we were known as a Christian society but we have to admit that hardly appears to be the case.
The recent acts of theft at several churches of varying denominations across this country are glaring signs of this worrying decline.
For while many restrict their association to weddings, funerals, Good Friday, Easter and Christmas, the church was long held as a place not to be tampered with for fear of the retribution of The Almighty.Many faithful churchgoers still fear the 2 Samuel 6 account of Uzzah touching the Ark of the Covenant and instantly falling to his death for disobeying God’s instruction not to touch the sacred chest or the Acts 5 story of Ananias and Sapphira who too were struck dead for lying about the proceeds from a sale of a portion of land.
But actions of late suggest that these stories are either unknown or forgotten as sacrilege rears its ugly visage.
As recently as last Sunday, Bishop Marcus Hinds of Bethel Pentecostal Church at Lowlands, Christ Church, attempted to open the doors for regular worship, when he instead was greeted by a crime scene.
All of the equipment, valued at $7000 – a lawn mower, table, mixing board, computer, television, projector, two monitors and two speakers – were stolen, according to Hinds.
And this was not the first time that thieves have raided churches this year.This attack was preceded by theft at the Bethel Methodist Church, the third incident in just a year.
Church representatives from St Mary’s Anglican Church, St Patricks Cathedral and the Better Life Assembly have also reported similar incidents.And late last month, police reported a suspected case of arson at the St Martin’s Anglican Church in St Philip.
Someone set fire to the altar, two kneeling stools and a prayer book, leaving them extensively burnt.
While such acts are nothing new, this spate of sacrilege is as noteworthy as it is unnerving.
Have we sunk so low that there is no longer a line between the sacred and the secular?
One does not have to be mildly religious or an averred, Bible-thumping proselyte to condemn wrong. Abuse of places of worship is simply wrong and shameful.
Not for a second should we excuse the suggestion that some are so without the necessary means to support themselves that they must resort to stealing and desecrating churches.
A House of God, no matter how lowly or opulent, should therefore be revered.We agree with the candid assessment of the religious leaders affected by these acts, that far too many are losing their respect for God and the things of God. They insist that the church is still hallowed ground and is the place where one should seek solace and salvation.
If there is any lesson in these lawless acts, perhaps it is that the Church must reach out more to all groups in society and cater to their spiritual, emotional and financial needs, especially in these tough economic times.At the same time, these incidents also send a clear message that the Church cannot afford to be naïve and must be prepared to face the new realities.
While there is little that can be done to predict or prevent the actions of a determined thief, there are some practical steps all churches can take to protect their property and respond in the event of crime.
Churches can start by assessing their security vulnerability with the help of the Royal Barbados Police Force or a private security firm. They may consider installing security cameras and alarms or even hiring a security guard.
Churches, too, must also avoid being lax in collecting offerings and showcasing the valuable equipment they have.
As much as we don’t want to admit it, the Church must now be proactive about security to prevent the sacrilege we have been witnessing in recent times.
The Church cannot be what it used to be. For Barbados isn’t.