Church ar­rest a sac­ri­lege

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - Ut­loang Ka­jeno

IN the Book of Ex­o­dus, 3:5, it is said: “Do not come any closer”, God said, “Take off your san­dals for the place where you are stand­ing is holy ground”.

I in­tend quot­ing ex­ten­sively from the Holy Bi­ble in this col­umn in an ef­fort to demon­strate to the not-so-con­ver­sant with the Holy Scrip­ture and its teach­ings, the sac­ri­le­gious na­ture of the con­duct of the mem­bers of the po­lice in the short episode I shall re­count be­low as told by the cleric in­volved.

Fac­tual Back­ground

On Sun­day, 28th Au­gust, some ter­ri­ble, hope­fully not-to-be-re­peated oc­cur­rence hap­pened on the holy ground of St. James and St. Mary Angli­can Cathe­dral in Maseru.

As the priest was about to en­ter the Cathe­dral to con­vene holy mass at 0820hrs, two po­lice of­fi­cers in the com­pany of a church war­den, in pos­ses­sion of a court or­der, tried to pre­vent the cleric from con­duct­ing Mass.

How­ever, the priest, af­ter re­quest­ing with the two of­fi­cers to ei­ther pro­duce a war­rant of ar­rest or wait for him out­side un­til the service had ended, nev­er­the­less pro­ceeded in a pro­ces­sion to en­ter the Cathe­dral.

An an­nounce­ment was made to the con­gre­ga­tion that as promised, mass would be held, how­ever, be­fore then an an­nounce­ment was made that the con­gre­ga­tion should re­main calm as there were po­lice of­fi­cers who would be en­ter­ing the cathe­dral to carry out their du­ties, and that they should not be sur­prised.

That was when 10 armed po­lice of­fi­cers de­scended on the sanc­tu­ary and in­formed the priest that if he did not vol­un­teer to hand him­self over to the po­lice for ar­rest, they would ar­rest him force­fully in­side the church.

For those not so con­ver­sant with re­li­gious par­lance, a sanc­tu­ary is the part of the chan­cel of a church con­tain­ing the high al­tar.

It is not for noth­ing that in ev­ery day English, a sanc­tu­ary is used to de­fine a place of safety.

The cleric was taken from the church sanc­tu­ary un­der ar­rest be­fore he could even de­liver mass.

In the en­su­ing small com­mo­tion be­fore his ar­rest, a girl who had been tak­ing cell­phone pic­tures of the episode was re­port­edly chased away by po­lice who shouted un­print­able ex­ple­tives at her un­til she dis­ap­peared from the scene. The shock­ing pic­tures later went vi­ral.

All these in­ci­dents un­folded in full view and earshot of the en­tire church con­gre­ga­tion, among them chil­dren and re­spectable cit­i­zens, as well as the el­derly. It hap­pened on holy church grounds! If this is not sac­ri­lege then tell me what it is, please!

Sac­ri­lege and des­e­cra­tion de­fined

Sac­ri­lege is de­fined as vi­o­la­tion or mis­use of some­thing re­garded as sa­cred. Des­e­cra­tion is the act of de­priv­ing some­thing of its sa­cred char­ac­ter or the dis­re­spect­ful, con­temp­tu­ous, or de­struc­tive treat­ment of that which is held to be sa­cred or holy by a group or in­di­vid­ual.

Ac­cord­ing to Wikipedia, des­e­cra­tion can in­clude sac­ri­le­gious acts of sa­cred books, sa­cred places or sa­cred ob­jects. Des­e­cra­tion gen­er­ally may be con­sid­ered from the per­spec­tive of a par­tic­u­lar reli­gion or spir­i­tual ac­tiv­ity.

Des­e­cra­tion may be ap­plied to nat­u­ral sys­tems or com­po­nents, par­tic­u­larly if those sys­tems are part of nat­u­ral­is­tic spir­i­tual reli­gion.

Re­mov­ing san­dals

In Ex­o­dus quoted above, Moses tried to ap­proach a bush that was on fire but did not burn up, a strange sight in­deed. As he tried to ap­proach, God called Moses to re­move his san­dals as the ground he was stand­ing on was holy ground.

In a sim­i­lar vein, church grounds, par­tic­u­larly the sanc­tu­ary, are holy ground. The po­lice there­fore could have held back their des­cent on the church even if armed with a court or­der.

It is very wrong for po­lice of­fi­cers to have de­scended on holy church grounds es­pe­cially the sanc­tu­ary, to ef­fect an ar­rest.

Mark 6:9-11

The sig­nif­i­cance of re­mov­ing one’s san­dals in the Chris­tian doc­trine is re­peated sev­eral times in the Holy Scrip­ture.

The ra­tio­nale be­hind re­mov­ing one’s san­dals can­not be over-em­pha­sized as san­dals gather dust from wher­ever one has trav­elled in­clud­ing prob­a­bly tread­ing on evil ground.

How­ever, while this might not be to im­pute that the po­lice are sin­ners but it merely goes to demon­strate that they ought to have held back on their des­cent on the church.

Church grounds are ob­vi­ously not the ideal place to ef­fect ar­rests. That is why Mark 6:9-11, when he send the Twelve, Je­sus said: “wear san­dals but not an ex­tra shirt.

When­ever you en­ter a house, stay there un­til you leave that town. And if any place will not wel­come you or lis­ten to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a tes­ti­mony against them”.

The theme be­hind this para­ble is that the church is holy ground there­fore any­body who en­ters its sanc­tu­ary must re­move all sin, if at least ide­ally. Let alone armed swear­ing po­lice de­scend­ing on the sanc­tu­ary. It is des­e­cra­tion.

I Kings 2:28-29

In I Kings 2:28-29 it is said: “When the news reached Joab, who had con­spired with Adoni­jah though not with Ab­sa­lom, he fled to the tent of the Lord (church) and took hold of the horns of the al­tar. King Solomon was told that Joab had fled to the tent (church) of the Lord and was be­side the al­tar. Then Solomon or­dered Be­na­iah son of Je­hoiada, “Go, strike him down”.

The les­son be­hind this in­ci­dent is that the tent (church) of the Lord is in­vi­o­lable and in­deed a place of refuge.

It is there­fore sac­ri­le­gious for the po­lice to have de­scended on the church grounds, par­tic­u­larly armed and es­pe­cially to the sanc­tu­ary of the Lord. The place is sa­cred.

John 2:13-17

In John 2:13-17, it is stated that when it was al­most time for the Jewish Passover, Je­sus went up to Jerusalem.

It was when he en­tered the tem­ple (church), that he found hordes of mer­chants sell­ing cat­tle, sheep and doves and others sit­ting at ta­bles ex­chang­ing money.

He whipped all the of­fend­ers and over­turned the ta­bles scat­ter­ing the money and said these telling words that sig­nify the ho­li­ness of church grounds and their in­vi­o­la­bil­ity: “Get these out of here! Stop turn­ing my fa­ther’s house into a mar­ket!”

Tolling the Bell

It is there­fore plainly sac­ri­le­gious to in­vade the grounds of the church by armed po­lice who were even re­port­edly swear­ing.

Fur­ther­more, once the bell has tolled as in the cathe­dral, it means that God him­self, has spo­ken, call­ing the faith­ful to be­gin the church service.

No or­di­nary hu­man ex­cept the or­dained cleric and those help­ing him are al­lowed to per­form re­li­gious cer­e­monies once the bell has tolled.

Psalm 24:3-4

In Psalm 24:3-4, it is said in re­la­tion to the sa­cred­ness of God’s Tem­ple: “Who may as­cend the moun­tain of the Lord? Who stand in his holy place? Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, who do not put their trust in an idol or swear by a false god. they will re­ceive bless­ing from the Lord and vin­di­ca­tion from God their sav­ior. Such is the gen­er­a­tion of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Ja­cob”.

This is prob­a­bly why the cleric re­port­edly in­formed the po­lice that they had no right to be in the church’s sanc­tu­ary.

This is be­cause the cleric is God’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to con­duct Holy Mass so by de­mean­ing the cleric and God’s Tem­ple, the po­lice were by ex­ten­sion de­mean­ing God Him­self. Shame!!!

Matthew 5:23-25

In Matthew 5:23-25 again be­cause the al­tar is sa­cred no one is per­mit­ted to ap­proach it if he is not clean in deeds and spirit, it is said: “There­fore, if you are of­fer­ing your gift at the al­tar and there re­mem­ber that your brother or sis­ter has some­thing against you, leave your gift there in front of the al­tar. First go and be rec­on­ciled to that per­son, then come and of­fer your gift”.

This for­ti­fies my view that the al­tar is not for us or­di­nary mor­tals, for we are sin­ners. That is why the cleric, be­fore they ap­proach the al­tar pray for di­vine in­ter­ven­tion and asks God to cleanse them.

Le­gal Po­si­tion

Hav­ing ex­pounded what the Holy Scrip­ture stip­u­lates in re­la­tion to des­e­cra­tion, it is now ap­pro­pri­ate to ex­plain the po­si­tion of the Law of Man, in re­gard to flout­ing of a court or­der.

Again here the po­lice were at fault. They had to ef­fect an ar­rest on the cleric if he had been given the op­por­tu­nity to show cause why within a spec­i­fied pe­riod, he can­not be ar­rested for fail­ure to com­ply with a court or­der.

The hasty de­ci­sion by the po­lice was il­le­gal in that the cleric did not pose a dan­ger to any­one, nor was he a flight risk nor did he demon­strate any like­li­hood to be vi­o­lent to­wards the po­lice.

Fi­nally, there was no ur­gency in their ar­rest. The plau­si­ble con­clu­sion that can be drawn from this is that it was on the face of it, cal­cu­lated to hu­mil­i­ate him and to cause dis­tress in ad­di­tion to in­still­ing fear.

I Peter 4:12-19 In con­clu­sion, they should read I Peter 4:12-19 wherein it is said: “Dear friends, do not be sur­prised at the fiery or­deal that has come on you to test you, as though some­thing strange were hap­pen­ing to you.

But re­joice as you par­tic­i­pate in the suf­fer­ings of Christ, so that you may be over­joyed when glory is re­vealed. If you are in­sulted be­cause of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and God rests on you.

If you suf­fer, it should not be as a mur­derer or thief or any other crim­i­nal, or even as a med­dler. How­ever, if you suf­fer as a Chris­tian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

For it is time for judg­ment to be­gin with God’s house­hold; and if it be­gins with us, what will the out­come be for those who do not obey the gospel of God…..

So then, those who suf­fer ac­cord­ing to God’s will should com­mit them­selves to their faith­ful Creator and con­tinue to do good.

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