Safeguard Your Holy Places When They Are Closed

Guard and Volunteers Need to be Mobilized in the Coronavirus Crisis

By Stephen Bryen

No matter what our opinion is of the coronavirus (officially 2019-n COV, where COV stands for coronavirus, 2019 the year it appeared in humans, and the letter n for novel, where it is also abbreviated as COVID-19), the fact is that many areas are being designated as high risk, and many religious institutions, schools, offices even senior centers are being closed or where access is being restricted.  This means that many holy places will be vacant, or nearly so (perhaps some maintenance people will come in and out).’

Whenever a unique and crippling event happens, whether it is a fire that sweeps through a community, or a tornado, or cyclone, tidal wave, hurricane, or an infectious disease, the fact is that there is often looting, theft and destruction that almost always appears.  Sometimes in these emergencies a governor will call out the National Guard to try and prevent looting and vandalism, but not always.  Indeed, in a widespread crisis, as we are experiencing with COVID-19, there are not enough National Guard or State or local police to cover all the bases.

It is true that in come communities, such as New Rochelle, New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo has called out the state’s National Guard to form a containment zone around the New Rochelle community.  But New Rochelle is not a large community –around 80,000 in all.  In larger communities and cities across the country, it would be virtually impossible to deploy National guard units to protect every important location or site.  

In practical terms this means that empty holy places are at risk.  The people vacuum created by the COVID-19 crisis exposes these properties to vandalism, theft even fire and destruction.

It is, therefore of urgent importance that religious institutions and schools, including churches, synagogues, mosques and temples, and offices that are sponsored by religious organizations, make sure that their facilities are protected by guards and staff to the extent possible. 

In fact, because of the effective quarantine that comes from locking the doors of religious institutions, the importance of protecting them from danger is as great, if not greater, than under normal conditions.

Above all this means both properly trained guards and volunteers should be deployed, the sooner the better.

The one big risk of the present emergency caused by the COVID-19 crisis is the potential breakdown of social order it may bring, as self-isolation and other quarantine style measures are put into effect.  

No one wants to return to a normal life after the crisis abates, to find the places they love and the institutions they rely on, ransacked or destroyed.

Therefore it is all important to move quickly on putting protective measures in place now, without debate and without hesitation.

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Stephen Bryen is the author of the new book, Security for Holy Places: How to Build A Security Plan for Your Church, Synagogue, Mosque or Temple (Morgan James Publishing). eBook is now available at most on-lie bookseller sites. Paperback can be purchased at securityforholyplaces.org