This is how churches can protect themselves

Henry

Increasing crime at churches, during which parishioners are attacked and robbed in certain cases even during the service, has increased drastically in recent times. That is why, says AfriForum, its community safety department has issued an assessment document that churches can use as a guideline in strengthening their safety.

“Robbers often regard churches as a soft crime target and the increasing incidence of attacks at churches speaks volumes for that,” says Jacques Broodryk, AfriFroum’s spokesperson for community safety.

He points out that more than 1,500 congregations approached Faith Mazibuko, the MEC for community safety in Gauteng, just in November last year to create awareness about the prevalence of crime in churches.

In October last year, four armed men stormed into the Gereformeerde Kerk Daspoort in Pretoria during an evening service and robbed members. The thugs approached the victims one by one with their weapons and stole their mobile phones, wallets and jewellery. In July 2020, two suspects were shot dead during a robbery at a church in Centurion.

According to AfriForum, the basic right to a safe environment is being undermined by these crimes and it is not enough to watch as the government and law enforcers stand indifferent to this.

“In the past, the government fulfilled its responsibility regarding the security of communities and it was not necessary for security companies or other institutions to secure churches. Church leaders therefore do not necessarily focus on analyzing risks and establishing safety measures,” says Broodryk.

“This gap in terms of security must therefore be dealt with urgently, as crime is on the rise and that is why AfriForum has issued this assessment document.”

AfriForum would also like to empower churches to act proactively by conducting an audit of the safety of the church and its members, and by having measures ready to improve the safety of members in churches.

Among other things, the manual provides guidance on how to act in the event of a fire, armed robbery, medical incident or kidnapping.

The organization also invites churches to make contact with AfriForum neighborhood guards in their communities to achieve greater cooperation in terms of safety.

“Incidents of crime at churches have recently shown that churches are not prepared for the dangers that crime poses. In contrast, a prepared church – which has and follows the necessary security measures – is a difficult target for criminals and the criminals will most likely shift their focus. In addition, a prepared church can effectively reduce the risks and impact of criminal activities,” says Broodryk.

The assessment document is available here.