KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandans have expressed concern about a rash of recent church burglaries in which thieves stole religious items and equipment.
“People nowadays have no fear of God. How is it possible for one to steal from the house of God?” wondered Rose Nakuya, a parishioner at Matale Parish in Masaka Diocese, where thieves recently broke in and stole church equipment. “I had never imagined that people could steal from the church. I have always thought that anyone who steals from the church can die on the spot or get cursed.”
Matale Parish is among hundreds of churches in Uganda where thieves have broken windows and doors at night and stolen public address systems, furniture, curtains, electric wires, food, laptops, bulbs, and money found in offering boxes, among other things.
Father Henry Kiganda of St. Jude Catholic Parish in Lukaya said just in the Masaka Diocese, at least six Catholic churches had been robbed in less than one year. He said the situation has forced the majority of the priests across the country to keep churches locked, especially when no activities or Masses are going on.
“The situation is worrying us. We are looking for ways to protect our churches, including erecting fences, hiring guards and installing cameras,” he said, explaining how, within a two-month span, thieves broke into five Catholic churches in Lira Diocese and stole church equipment.
He said churches were struggling to raise funds to repair and replace church equipment and items the robbers had stolen.
“For now, we are encouraging churches that don’t have any security plans to ferry their equipment during Mass days and return them to their homes after the Mass,” he said.
John Katongole, a security expert, said most Christians in the country have believed that it’s an abomination for robbers to break into churches to steal their property. He said such belief has made church leaders not install security systems.
Katongole, a Catholic, said most businesses, schools and government offices had installed security systems to ensure their properties were protected, but most churches were unoccupied at night, and few have lighting that could deter criminals.