Houses of worship have been targeted by a number of criminals in recent years, prompting some parishioners to bring firearms with them to church in order to protect life and property.
Brooklyn Pastor Robbed at Gunpoint During Church Service pic.twitter.com/MgIVAtIZyI
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One recent example occurred in Houston, Texas, and involved the robbery of the Community of Faith Church. As security cameras recorded, the intruders brought a cart with which they removed a safe that included cash and church documents.
About a week later, church officials discovered a statue in a gazebo on church property that they identified as “demonic.”
Reports indicate it was likely a tribute to Santa Muerte, a controversial patron saint of sorts worshiped by criminal gangs including Mexican drug cartels. The Catholic Church has denounced the act of exalting the figure, calling it “the celebration of devastation and of hell.”
Members of the targeted church, led by Bishop James Dixon, stood firm against the acts perpetrated against them.
“It’s disheartening,” Dixon said. “It is sad to think that people would do something like that.”
He lamented the fact that his congregation has had to deal with two troubling incidents in the span of just a few days.
“Here we are a week later and we’re having to defend ourselves and pray again against the works of the enemy.”
The congregation gathered for a ceremony that involved setting the statue ablaze and praying for the church.
As one member explained: “This is sacrilegious. This is holy ground. This is our church.”
Despite expressing outrage over the fact that criminals targeted his church, Dixon made it clear that he and other parishioners were praying for those responsible — specifically that they would repent for their actions and surrender to authorities.
“We’ve never had this before,” he said of the recent incidents. “So it hurts, you know, to know that this church does so much good for so many people.”
Although he declined to specify how much money was stolen in the robbery, he said that it could have been used “to feed the hungry, help the poor, and help children go back to school who are disadvantaged,” adding that the church now has “to spend those funds into upgrading security systems.”
As for the decision to burn the disturbing statue left on the church’s property, Dixon was clear in describing his intention: “We destroyed the works of the devil.”