As we pray for the souls of the multiple victims killed in a Baptist church in Texas, USA, we ask our ourselves the question – “where do we go to find peace and solace, if not in a house of God?”. On Sunday morning, this devoted Christian community opened up their hearts to prayer and to their blessed Savior, when an act of domestic terrorism, caused by a local community member, created one of the worst atrocities known in US history. The disturbed psychopath, opened gunfire and murdered, in cold blood, the majority of the congregation. A pregnant woman, babies, children, men and women alike, were all slaughtered within a matter of minutes.
When we think of spaces where we go to connect with God, and pray, we envision, apart from churches – cathedrals, monasteries, temples, mosques, synagogues and gurdwaras. One could never perceive for a moment that an act of violence could occur in the house of an almighty God; however, we have to succumb to the fact that evil walks the earth and has no boundaries of entering into environments that promote love, peace and goodness.
In this day and age, no matter if sheltering in a building of prayer, we are still vulnerable, indeed. The space is fairly open, in order to accommodate a large group of people and there is usually only one main exit in and out. People are fairly complacent and in a state of spiritual refuge or meditation, not armed with preventative thought measures of securing themselves from a veracious attack. Unfortunately, we have to understand the tone of the times we are living in, and have to be mindful of having security plans in place wherever our location.
Sanctuaries of holy places, to lunatic fanatics, are considered soft targets, therefore we cannot just rely on ushers at the door to welcome and greet the public, as has always been the traditions of the past. In the wake of much violence focused around religion, establishing a security committee is of vital importance to such institutions. Law enforcement personnel, combined with trained volunteers or hired private security will help pave the way to protection.
Security gadgets, such as long range, wide angle, non hack-able, high definition CCTV Cameras, with both day and night vision capability, that are able to store video and imagery, can be assembled in key areas. Alarms are also a good feature; models that sense gunfire noise, gun-smoke, intrusion detection, or fire, are the best choices. Metal detectors, revealing concealed weapons and explosives, should also be considered. Good illumination on the premises with effective lighting is important for safety at night. Organizations have even been formed such as the National Organization of Church Security & Safety Management (NOCSSM), that offer courses and formal security training procedures.
One of the best forms of security, is preventative intervention, in the form that, “if you see something say something”. It is a community’s collective responsibility to be conscious of everyone around them and report immediately to authorities if anyone’s behavior or personality seems odd. It is important to recognize that unstable mental health is a disturbed state of mind, that has to be urgently registered, so it can be accurately recorded, then stored in Government data base systems, for all to be aware.
With strong security measures firmly in place in the houses of God – precious lives may be saved. Let us PRAY.