Faced with increasing instances of desecration and break-ins, authorities in the Archdiocese of Goa have issued a no-nonsense circular to the administrative committees of all churches, setting out guidelines for maintenance of security.
The stern advisory calls for substantial secure measures such as doorframe metal detectors and manual frisking and handbag checking, in case of suspicion. Church and chapel (place of Catholic worship equivalent to a sub-church) administrative committees have been encouraged to deploy equipment to boost security at the places of religious worship.
The 15-point security advisory recommends ‘adequate security personnel for proper security check’.
‘In case it is not possible to deploy a sufficient number of personnel, a minimum of one security guard should be deployed at least during the night,’ the circular issued Friday states.
In the circular, Fr Santana Faleiro, secretary of the Secretariat of the Confraternities, has also said the church authorities had received an official communication from police regarding thefts and desecration of places of worship.
‘We have based the circular on the letter from police,’ said Faleiro.
‘Security guards should be provided with a torch, lathi (baton) and a register, which would be signed by police on patrol duty, after checking the alertness of security guards,’ the circular says, adding that the guards must be from a registered agency with their antecedents verified.
‘In case religious institutions are unable to employ any security personnel due to financial constraints, they should furnish the names of at least two able-bodied persons from their locality who are willing to perform security duty during the night time to police,’ the advisory states of churches that cannot afford their own private security.
‘Police may explore the possibility of giving some honorarium to such volunteer security guards by writing to the government,’ the advisory states.
‘Goa police is in the process of tinkering with a public vigilante scheme, after nearly 100 temples, churches and other places of worship were desecrated, broken into for theft over the last three years.’
The archdiocese has also recommended that the number of access points to Catholic places of worship ‘needs to be reduced to a minimum. Ideally one access point is easy to regulate’.
‘We have also advocated installation of an alarm system and CCTV, with at least 30 days’ storage, at all the access points, sanctum sanctorum and also at other strategic points. This will bring the whole place of worship under surveillance. The CCTV footage should be monitored and be made available to police,’ Faleiro said.
Goa has an approximately 26 percent Christian population, more than 100 churches and several hundred chapels spread throughout the state.