“WE’LL CUT your legs off.”
Those were the chilling words of the bandits, according to Roman Catholic priest Fr Jose Marie Thekkekute, 66. The priest was asleep when intruders burst into the presbytery of the Our Lady of Montserrat RC Church, Tortuga, early Monday morning. They held him hostage and robbed him.
“These men don’t have respect for man nor God,” he later said. “I told them, while they were robbing me, that they should stop terrorising innocent people and try to work for their living.”
We express relief that the priest managed to emerge from this ordeal with his life intact.
However, Monday’s incident is unfortunately only the latest in a series of incidents involving criminals targeting religious institutions and their officiators over the last few months.
In June, burglaries occurred at the Kailash Parvat Sharana Gati Ashram and at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness Hare Krishna Temple in Longdenville.
In May, there were reports of four masked men breaking into the Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Freeport and stealing $160,000 worth of cash and jewellery. In December, Fr Clyde Harvey was robbed by armed men at St Martin’s RC Church in Gonzales, Port of Spain.
The list goes on and on.
Monday’s incident is a reminder of the steady march of criminality that is plaguing the nation. It is yet another signal to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith of the challenges faced and the wide-ranging nature of the problem.
Not only must we be concerned with dramatic killings that are occurring, at times in broad daylight, but we must also contend with seemingly petty crimes that nonetheless represent a substantial undermining of our freedoms as citizens.
Attacks on places of worship not only traumatise the religious officials involved, they affect their followers. These attacks have a ripple effect on communities and catchment areas, depriving religiously-inclined citizens of one of the last remaining refuges from the stresses of modern life: belief.
It is tempting to ask what kind of people we have become when sacrilegious attacks happen and happen regularly, seemingly with impunity.
Yet, in truth, it is not surprising that criminals, having had a field day with the layman, now turn their attention to sacred spaces once regarded as off limits as way back as medieval times.
Authorities and religious leaders should put measures in place to adjust to these sad new realities. The continued attack on holy spaces is an indication that criminals are confident that they will escape unscathed.
When will it end? The perpetrators must be brought to justice.