Nothing is sacred anymore as crimes against the church become a more regular occurrence.
SATURDAY DIALOGUE WITH ROPAFADZO MAPIMHIDZE
Last Sunday I attended church at Celebration Ministries International, a church that is located off Borrowdale Road.
This church is one piece of magnificent architect which has always fascinated me because it is designed in such a way that it can virtually accommodate any function.
This is one church that has attracted people from every social stratum, from the street kid to the wealthiest man in Zimbabwe.
The church, because of its location, has obviously a large number of people from the affluent areas in the northern suburbs that are members and hence thieves have targeted these people.
On this particular Sunday, I had specifically come to meet one church leader who had a parcel for me, but failed to locate him.
However, when the church service came to a close, an announcement was made by one of the pastors, ordering all entrances closed so that each and every person could be searched.
Someone had stolen an iPad/phone belonging to some church member and hence everyone’s handbag had to be searched with owners identifying their gadgets.
I was, however, to learn this week on Thursday that the gadget had been found abandoned away from where the owner had left it when she had responded to an altar call.
This incident is not at all unusual because many other churches make announcements for people to keep their handbags safe, and not to leave them unattended.
One church that comes into mind is the Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries, where Prophet Walter Magaya announces at each and every gathering for people not to leave their handbags on their seats when responding to an altar call.
He clearly states that there are people that come to church for other reasons.
Another church that has been targeted by thieves is Upper Room Fellowship, which is located in the heart of Harare’s central business district.
There have been a number of cases where handbags and church property has been stolen during church service, resulting in tight security measures.
And many decades ago, when I was growing up in a neighbouring country, thieves hit a church and stole all sandals at the foot of a mosque entrance. Muslims worship without their shoes on and hence leave them outside.
Some of the shoes were found at a market on sale and although no arrests were made, it became evident that thieves do not uphold one of the 10 commandments . . . and they will attack places where this particular eighth commandment, Thou shall not steal, is preached.
A Muslim church in Mbare experienced the same fate. The church has since hired a guard to look after their shoes.
Cars parked at churches have also not been spared as thieves break in, taking away items ranging from laptops, cameras and even groceries.
The well-secured car park at Celebration Ministries International is vast and always fully packed on Sundays with an array of vehicles parked there.
Although the church has employed guards that monitor the car park, there have been reports of cars that have been broken into whilst owners are in church.
But some of the thieves are apparently members of the congregation that know contents of items in members’ bags.
One woman from another city centre church said she left her bag on her seat as she went to the washroom, but returned before she had reached the toilet, as she wanted to get some tissues from her bag. She was shocked to find a woman that was sitting next to her searching her bag. The thief had already switched off the woman’s phone and was ready to leave when she came face to face with the owner.
These two women are apparently members of the women’s union, which instituted some disciplinary action on the woman.
The woman, however, left the church for good because word had already spread around that she had tried pilfering from her fellow church member.
Countless numbers of people have said that they have lost purses and sometimes jewelry from handbags during baptism services where bags are placed in one place.
Apparently this is not only happening in Zimbabwe or Africa alone. It is a worldwide problem.
Despicable crooks and vandals have also targeted a number of churches in high density areas where musical equipment and computers have been stolen.
When I was growing up, churches were never locked. Occasionally tramps would be found there, but even they respected the church.
Now it’s sad as churches have to be locked and yet they used to be places of refuge for people who needed a roof over their heads for the night.
But nothing is sacred these days.
People should not leave any valuables in their car altogether, no matter where they are.
While churches are a target, it’s anyplace where any person is going where it would be inconvenient to take your purse or laptop.
Purses are getting plucked from cars in parking lots outside several churches in and around Harare and I think it is imperative for the Zimbabwe Republic Police to create some awareness on this matter.
Thieves broke into a Zaoga Church in Gutu, Masvingo, and got away with cash amounting to more than $24 000 early on Thursday last week, police confirmed.
The gang gained entry through a window, bent the burglar bars using a metal object suspected to be an iron bar.