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Bandit robs Arouca church

The trinidad Guardian / President of the Inter-Religious Organisation Bro Harrypersad Maharaj says that T&T has lost its moral and spiritual values.

Maharaj was commenting on two recent robberies at churches along the East/West corridor in the past month.

The latest incident took place on Sunday, when a bandit pretending to be a member of the congregation robbed the Arouca RC Church after collection was taken up by parishioners.

In an interview yesterday, Maharaj said this was a cause for concern since the main chalice (a goblet) was stolen from a Catholic church in San Fernando years ago and Fr Jacques Hamel was killed during a morning mass in France in July by Islamist extremists.

“Generally people have lost the fear for God and they go and break into these places (churches). The priest had his throat slit.

“It is unfortunate where religious leaders are faced with demons when you look at crime and the murder.”

He said the IRO’s peace march held this past weekend was to bring some sense of morality to society.

“I condemn the theft of these places of worship. People make sincere donations to serve society and when they don’t have funds it will deprive society and the community,” he said.

Maharaj said the general public and parishioners should be careful and monitor strangers.

“Welcome them but you will monitor when and if they leave, you have to be careful when you see strange people around.

“Maybe they should start having armed guards around and sometimes the police can’t catch up with these people,” he said.

He said this was a matter of concern for the Government as criminality could be blamed on a lack of jobs and frustration.

“It is getting really bad and no one is safe any longer. We are living in different times and it is unfortunate,” he said.

A member of the Arouca RC Church congregation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the money was stolen after church members collected the tithes and offerings.

“He (the bandit) pretended to be a parishioner. Is not to say he was outside. He was seated with the congregation and grabbed the money.”

She said a scuffle ensued between the thief and the usher before he revealed his hidden firearm.

“He showed him his gun and other parishioners ran behind. We should change the way we handle the cash. We can’t be afraid to live for our life, I go with God,” she said.

The parishioner said the church had many who introduced themselves but no one would expect such an occurrence.

“It is different now and things have really changed,” she said.

ARCHBISHOP TO HOLD SECURITY MEETING

Roman Catholic Archbishop Joseph Harris said that he will be holding a meeting with his fellow members of the clergy today (Tuesday) to discuss the issue.

“I heard a fellow (bandit) walked out with the basket. I have a meeting with the vicars tomorrow and we will talk about it.”

Harris said that this problem was due to a lack of respect.

“Of course, it is a lack of value and the sense of the sacredness so that no place is sacred any more. There is a coalition between respect for the human person and sacred places.

“There is sense that the church is a sanctuary therefore the presence of law enforcement does not seem to be appropriate. I will discuss with our clergy,” he said.

Newly assigned Northern Division head Snr Supt McDonald Jacob said the police went to the church to investigate the incident but no official report had been made.

He said officers heard about it and visited the area where they found a plastic gun.

“We didn’t get anyone to interview to get all the facts and no official report was made except through 999 (emergency hotline),” he said.

Jacob said it could be one individual, a copy-cat or the same person and officers would pay attention to the churches when they have services.

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