Amid an increase in violence and crime targeted at religious centers locally and internationally, church leaders have been strongly advised to double down on security including getting defense training.
On Thursday night, dozens gathered at the Cave Hill Weslyan Holiness church for the series Man Talk, a monthly panel discussion series, moderated by veteran journalist, Emmanuel Joseph which explored whether the church should hire professional security in light of ongoing violent attacks.
Joseph recapped the numerous unlawful incidents, which affected churches over the last three years and suggested that there is a growing disregard for religious institutions and traditions.
While admitting the incidents, which ranged from burglary to harassment did not involve violence, he pointed to indiscriminate shooting at mourners in Jamaica and U.S mass shootings to suggest Barbadian churchgoers ought to take action.
“Barbados is not exempt from these things. It is happening in the Caribbean and we do not know. We take security for granted. So we are preaching to the church, hire professional security in light of what is happening to the church these days,” said Joseph.
Secretary of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI), Selwyn Braithwaite said Barbadians ought to be very concerned, when traditional Christian principles were under attack.
“We can’t just say ‘que sera sera’, because things are really changing and… in that regard it is critical that when people come to a place of worship, they should feel a sense of safety.
While admitting hired security may be a step too far, he argued that in ‘biblical times’, places of worship were heavily guarded and contemporary churches should be guided accordingly. In fact, he advised that some church leaders be taught to defend members, if safety is threatened.
“It would be a very forward initiative if we have members of the assembly, who understand its operation and are involved in some form of training to protect it.
“There needs to be some measure of protection, but I am not so sure that we are entirely ready to introduce hired security. If you have high-level security and men walking around with guns like a military base, I could foresee too much tension. There
need not be people looking like military, but they should be trained.
Executive Director of the Caribbean Association of Security Professionals Oral Reid, a panellist at the event also expressed concern about the problems, but said he was reluctant to compare reckless violence in Jamaica with the situation in Barbados.
“It doesn’t mean that it won’t happen here… but I think that at this stage in our development, we still have a culture that has not shown that the type of violent crimes that have occurred elsewhere will happen in our churches,” he said.
Reid, who is also Chairman of Crime Stoppers Barbados, however added that some churches were failing to adopt basic security measures.
“We have to be mindful that just as we secure our homes and our businesses, the church traditionally seen as a place of divine worship would still need to have some measure of security associated with it.
“What can we do to enhance our lightning, to mitigate the possibility of some crime or lawlessness? What can the church do to safeguard people who are parking within a particular space? I am thinking about the construction of peripheral walls, gates or fencing so that people can park their vehicles and know, there are measures in place to make the place safe.
“Whether the church is small or large, there should be some electronic investment made by church members…. And some steps must be taken to prevent persons from coming inside and taking their property,” he said.