Archbishop Robert Rivas OP of Castries has said that the perpetrator behind the July 19 arson attack at the St Martin de Porres Catholic Church at Pierrot, Vieux Fort “needs help”.
“And as a Church, I certainly would be very compassionate towards him and I’m sure the Church community too would be compassionate towards him,” the Archbishop said, in a statement July 21 via the ‘Archdiocese of Castries’ YouTube channel.
The recent attack, which involved a dreadlocks-sporting man, “believed to be of unsound mind”, according to St Lucia Times hurled Molotov cocktails at a statue outside the church, briefly setting the statue ablaze.
He later entered the church with other incendiary devices and was held by parishioners who handed him over to the police.
The Archbishop also felt that Sunday’s incident was a “serious offence” that needs to be dealt with. He described it as a perpetuation of evil which disturbed him.
“He threw Molotov cocktails at the image of Christ and the outside of the church and they flared up. If something similar was done on the inside of the church, it could have endangered the lives of worshippers during Mass,” the Archbishop said.
The recent arson attack on a sacred place of worship is not the first to happen in the country, the Archbishop said.
The incident, he said, raises the need to address how society cares for the mentally ill.
Archbishop Rivas said he is open to meeting with the Rastafarian community even though the community has disassociated itself from the crime.
“But I think it’s time we meet and have some dialogue so that there will be better understanding and so that we can look at the language we use in religious groups and to see if the language is a language where there is peace, is our language a language that creates conflict and can lead to violence….”
Ultimately, he said, what occurred at the church should never have happened and “we don’t want it to happen again”.
Meanwhile, former President of the Iyanola Council for the Advancement of Rastafari (ICAR) Peter ‘Ras Ipa’ Isaac told St Lucia Times that he feels insulted by the Archbishop’s comments. And Isaac wants an apology and retraction.
According to the July 23 article, Isaac said that because the man linked to the arson attack had dreadlocks and shouted slogans associated with Rastafarians, does not make him a Rastafarian.
“Not everyone who misses a fall and says, ‘Oh Jesus’ is a Christian,” Isaac asserted.
“For Archbishop Rivas to suggest that this young man is a Rasta and he is requesting discussion with the Rastafarian community is insulting,” he declared.
According to Isaac, when individuals commit offences, the pertinent information is whether they are male or female, their name, and where they are from.
But he explained that the person’s religious denomination does not become a factor.
“We want Rivas to apologise to the Rastafarian community and to me as a Rasta because I do not take lightly to calling anyone who has matted hair a Rasta,” Isaac stated.