Safe places are shrinking in our society. There are very few “safe places” anymore: shelters from the constant noise of news, peers, opinions, advertisements, opinions, murderers, rapists, molesters, angry, sadists, condescending, arrogant, agenda-driven, disingenuous, racist, imperialist, one-sided opinions are everywhere, all the time, from social media feeds to YouTube comment sections to network news to late night comedy TV.
Noise surrounds us everywhere, constantly. Our smartphones have made sure of that.
Thus, there is an urgent need for a place of reprieve in our culture — a “Sabbath,” from the barrage of the world’s bedlam. Our homes, spiritual communities, schools and libraries used to offer such safety. Not so guaranteed nowadays. Woe for the church which is supposed to be a moral yardstick for the community.
Ideally, places of worship have to be that place. They can’t be just another place.
Sadly, the modern day church narratives have shifted from being a rock under which people can seek social, moral and spiritual refuge to hubs of paedophiles, money-mongers, rapists, seducers and thieves; places where unspeakable evil happens.
Churches now more than ever stand accused of being platforms that allow predators and exploiters to thrive. Church leaders have been denounced for of preying on the weakest of the weak in their parishes, cleverly concealing their moral ideal that the ends justify the means.
Missionaries, pastors, priests, preachers alike search for vulnerabilities in their prey, such as poverty, drug addiction, loneliness, sickness, trauma and find ways to contextualise the gospel message that exploits these needs so that people will be convinced to believe and follow them.
While their predations and exploitations cuts across gender and demographics, the majority among their victims are women and young girls.
Reports reaching us this week are that a 51-year-old pastor from Limpopo has been ordered to remain behind bars after he stood accused of raping a preteen 12-year-old congregant whom he has taken to administer healing a week ago.
The cleric – who cannot be named because he has not yet pleaded – took the teenager away from her home by the pastor who told her mother he was engaging in a prayer session with her.
According to the police spokesman Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe, the pastor – from Thabazimbi west of Bela-Bela – was arrested on June 17.
“It is alleged that the suspect arrived at the victim’s house at about 4.30pm (on June 17) for a prayer session and then told the victim’s mother that the girl was sick. He further claimed the girl should go with him to the nearest river to receive healing,” Ngoepe said.
The child’s mother became concerned when she did not return home. Her father went to look for her, only to discover his daughter “half-naked, running and screaming for help”.
The child accused the pastor of raping her and a rape case was immediately opened. The suspect was detained.
The pastor appeared in the Bela-Bela Magistrate’s Court on Monday.
He was denied bail.
Meanwhile, the acting provincial commissioner of the South African Police Service in Limpopo, Major-General Jan Scheepers, has condemned in the strongest terms, the continuous acts of sexual violence perpetrated against children, Ngoepe said.
“The general has further urged parents to take care of their children and not abandon them into the hands of strangers, regardless of their religious beliefs, to avoid similar incidents,” he added.
The pastor is due to appear again on Thursday.
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