Father, your will, not mine be done
The drama starts at 10:48 am one Thursday morning. A young man knocks at the door. He is looking for a Mr Sibiya.
Unsuspectingly I tell him there’s no such person in our yard. Fr Amos Masemola is celebrating Holy Mass with mostly older ladies in the parish church. I advise the man to wait until 11 am in case the person he was looking for was in church.
Three Priests at Gunpoint
I go back to the sitting room where Fr Thabiso Ledwaba and Fr Simon Molefe are waiting for me in a meeting. Since there was no electricity (because of load shedding) I offer to make them tea from the gas stove. In the kitchen, a young man points a gun at my face and orders me to the sitting room. In the sitting room there are already two other young men with guns holding the two priests hostage.
The three of us are calm. They order us to surrender our cellphones and wallets. They tie our feet and hands. After realising that I live in the house, they threaten me with more violence if I do not cooperate.
The two of them take me to my study, bedroom and office. In the office they are more aggressive. My two dogs, Ginger and Zandi, bark at the commotion just outside the office window. They order me to keep the dogs quiet. I keep quiet. They order me to lie on the floor. I prostrate myself. Then there is some silence.
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit, I pray. In a few moments Fr Ledwaba, who probably thought I was dead, announces that the armed robbers had left. Apparently they were disturbed by Fr Masemola who, on approaching the main door, saw Fr Ledwaba and Fr Molefe lying down. They left with our cellphones, cash, a laptop and a camera. In about 15 minutes the police came after we called 10111.
We are grateful for the support shown by people who heard about experience. In a short period of time so many people came to offer moral support. We received hundreds of calls from concerned parishioners and friends throughout the country. Thank you for your prayers.
As I write this, we are still waiting for the detectives to come and interview us, and to see the crime scene. Maybe they will come. Maybe not. We are also still expecting the finger prints officials.
Some people who have dealt with police in such circumstances are pessimistic. They say the police might not prioritise our case because we are still alive. In other words, it is only when you are dead that police will make an extra effort. This does not necessarily mean that the police do not care. With their limited resources, they may be preoccupied with more serious cases.
Violent crime is a challenge in our society. Some concerned people have made suggestions about how we should beef up our security. But at the same time we don’t want church premises to resemble maximum security prisons.
Our Society May Be to Blame
Perhaps parents are getting it wrong. Teachers might be under pressure to produce good results instead of good citizens. Our communities may be putting pressure on young people to dress in a particular way or to own certain luxuries. Crime will continue as long as stolen items have a market. All of us can make a difference. The police alone will not solve these problems. It takes the whole village to raise a child.
This Good Friday, I will once again lie on the floor with my face down. This time, please God, there won’t be a gun threatening me. I will lie prostrate in adoration and thanksgiving for what the Lord has done.
Since it will be a day after my ordination anniversary, I will recall all the saints all those special friends, relatives, parishioners and colleagues who bless my life. This time I ask for the grace to personalise the prayer of Jesus: Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; yet, not my will, but yours be done.
I want to be able to say this each day of my life.