Editor's Comment

Review night prayers

THE senseless killing of a woman in a church calls for a serious review of evening religious gatherings.If this was a once in a blue moon incident, it would not raise as much concern as it has now. Even if it was a rare incident, it must raise concerns.Incidents abound of church members, especially women, being attacked and abused at such gatherings.Not too long ago, there was another similarly hideous incident of a woman being sexually abused by purported clergymen. The woman faithfully went up a mountain top to receive blessings but ended up being abused.It is highly likely that there are other cases that go unreported, especially if there are no deaths or serious injuries.The right to worship should never compromise the safety of the faithful. Their lives and health matter, so unless satisfactory safety measures are taken, churches should not host such gatherings.This may seem too harsh, but would anyone say so to relatives of Rebecca Chongo who has died a very painful death.Would you say so to Jane Soko who was brutally stabbed and left unconscious? Life is just too precious to be exposed to such risks.We know that there are many churches that hold overnight or late services. Others encourage members to gather at mountains for prayers and meditation.That is perfectly alright if,and only if, the safety of these members can be assured or the risks are significantly reduced. At Omega Fire Ministries,where these women were attacked, the explained safety measures the church provided are unsatisfactory.The church says after the night prayers, those that could return home did and those that could not were encouraged to spend the night in the church and leave the following morning. Well and good. What is not quite explained though is what safety guarantees there were for these women who were attacked.Some could even argue that the women were secure inside the church and may not have been targeted but were merely in a wrong place at a wrong time because the culprits were after the items they stole.No!The church building was just not secure enough and should not have been used as sleeping quarters.Taking care of the flock requires special attention to those that are most vulnerable.In this case, those that could not return home.If it is absolutely necessary to gather for prayers at night, churches must ensure that every one of their members returns home safely. This some churches do by providing buses or sharing the use of personal motor vehicles.If there are members that cannot be provided with safe passage back to their respective homes, it is best that they stay home. In this era of advanced technology, the word can be shared through live transmissions on channels like Facebook.Churches should not make it look like salvation can only be
received through worshipping at these odd times or places.Many of the Christian faithful will give well-explained justifications for going to the
mountains for prayers. They would quote Luke 6:12. They will also contend that among them there could be those with evil intentions but these should not hinder the greater good of seeking closeness to the maker.Well, not enough is being done to root out this evil or to protect the innocent ones. This is why we call for an urgent review of this form of gatherings.The solution lies largely with the churches themselves, but individuals, too, should play their part in keeping safe.If you know that you will not have transport for returning home after a late night church service, stay home. You would be perfectly justified and supported by Mathew 6:6,which says: “…when you pray,go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father,who is in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret will reward you.” May the soul of Rebecca Chongo rest in God’s warm embrace, and may the police bring the culprit to book.

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