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No fear of God

News day / Religious leaders have cited a breakdown in family and spiritual values and growing materialism while a criminologist described it as “the streets” showing their power and that no one was safe .

On Monday morning while at the St Martin de Porres RC Church compound in Gonzales, Fr Harvey was accosted by two men who told him they were sent to kidnap and then kill him. He was tied up and robbed of a cell phone, watch, cash and some other items. Fr Harvey described the men as “stupid victims” who he would like to speak to and ask them why they did it and who put them up to it .

“They are wild and money is their God. And we have to be aware is not only those two little boys that have money as their God,” he said .

Four suspects were detained following the incident with one telling police that they “robbed everybody already, so is time to rob God.” In March, the Southern Revival Church at Chinese Village, La Brea, was robbed of an estimated $17,500 worth of items between Carnival Sunday and Monday, the third time the church had been targeted by thieves .

In December, two gunmen robbed a man outside the Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Upper Maraval, while the Christmas Eve mass was taking place. Then, last November, a bandit staged a robbery inside the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church off the Eastern Main Road, Arouca shortly after mass. Also last May, thieves broke into the St Charles RC Church, Eastern Main Road, Tunapuna, and made off with $20,000 .

Hindu temples have also been the targets of criminals and in April, the historic Temple in the Sea in Waterloo was broken into and bandits made off with the dollars left by devotees at the feet of the murtis. This was only the latest in a series of break-ins at the site .

Back in August 2013, a Hindu temple in Felicity was burglarised and torched with thieves stealing more than $230,000 worth in gold jewellery which adorned 20 murtis in the temple and cash from a donation box .

Seventh-day Adventist pastor, former temporary senator and community worker Clive Dottin described these incidents as “a very disturbing trend” and advised that society look at the larger context, in terms of the collapse of institutions in our country. He said the major collapse is the collapse of the family and with that comes the failure to transmit spiritual values to young people .

“Even more significant is where we place things before people. So that the youths are mentored in this issue of materialism, by the community, within their broken homes. They are just focused on things,” he said .

Dottin recalled speaking to a mother from Maloney whose son migrated to Laventille and became a watchman in a gang. He said the boy was being well paid, and the first thing he bought was “brand name shoes” only to have it stolen by a gang member .

“And the boy’s response was ‘I thought there was loyalty within the gang.’ And significantly the boy came to realise that his life was worth less than the shoe.” He said the appreciation of the spiritual is absent and in society this creates a lack of respect. He added that, “following closely on the heels of this phenomenon, is the issue of the absence of fathers.” He said even when some fathers are present they may be “visiting fathers” and there is an inconsistency in the relationship .

Dottin recalled that at the Laventille community group Love until Foundation they interviewed an eight-year-old boy and asked him what he wanted to become .

“And he said that he wanted to become a gunman just like his father.” Dottin said the country is witnessing the effect of negative role models .

“So a lot of what you see going on in society, attack on churches, attack on church leaders, there is that blurring of the line between the sacred and the secular. Now what we have to look at very seriously, and the church has to play a significant role, we in mainstream society have to be fathers for these young people. If we allow this vacuum to continue much longer the entire society will collapse.” He also advised that communities have to move swiftly to adopt their schools .

He said there is a very dangerous trend where youths are recruited by relatives and other adults to engage in very negative practices, including drug addiction. He explained that a senior drug dealer may recruit students to push drugs in schools and with that comes along gambling and other negative practices .

“If we ignore this we ignore it at our peril.” Dottin also advised a return to the issue of family worship in our homes .

“If our youths grow up without a relationship with God, how can we expect them to appreciate and respect places of worship.” Dottin said he was divinely appointed to minister to troubled youth in schools and repeated his call for many more people to adopt a troubled youth .

Inter-Religious Organisation president Bro Harrypersad Maharaj also cited the breakdown in family and family values as contributing to the lack of respect for places of worship by criminals .

He said people’s lifestyles have changed and there are more single parents .

“How often do we see a family, a husband and wife in a loving way .

People are just living with more sadness. They appear happy but are really sad.” Maharaj pointed out that someone had asked Fr Harvey about security in churches but he had stressed that the real issues affecting people have to be dealt with, otherwise crime will continue .

Crime researcher Darius Figueira told Sunday Newsday the robbery was the “streets” (criminals) sending a message that they are in control and being a priest or a man of the church will not protect you .

“They are sending a message that you are not safe,” he added .

Figueira said churches were being targeted because they are soft targets and the criminals have the opportunity. He advised that churches will have to look at security measures though he questioned whether they would have the money to afford them .

On robberies and vandalism at Hindu temples, Figueira said this was the first step before an escalation where people at the temples are robbed .

Figueira said the belief that crime is due to a breakdown in family or failure of the church “has been beaten to death,” and said there must be a collaborative effort, including the church, to push back against the streets .

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