A senior police officer yesterday challenged residents of Helenvale, Port Elizabeth with a message which he believed God had given to him regarding the fight against crime and gang violence in the area.
Gelvandale Police Station Commander Brigadier Ernie Neveling was speaking at a prayer meeting against gangsterism and violence that was organised by the Helenvale Religious Forum representing about 40 churches in the neighbourhood. He told more than 500 people at the event that after he was invited to address the meeting he had asked God what he should say, and believed the Holy Spirt had given him three points.
His first point was that residents should note that while not all sins were crimes, all crimes were sins in God’s eyes. “I think that as a community we often forget this and tolerate certain things that are wrong,” he said.
Secondly, Neveling said all Christians were members of the body of Christ. No members of the body were more important than the others and there was no room for certain members to have separate agendas.
“When we tackle crime in this area, we should do so as the body of Christ,”he said.
He said that police had arrested more than 60 suspected gangsters and had solved most of the murder cases arising out of shootings in the past five months in which 22 people had died. The only time that police could not make progress with their investigations was when they did not receive the co-operation of local residents.
“The police are not your enemies,” he said.
Thirdly, Neveling quoted Joshuah 24:15 in which Joshua challenges his followers to choose who they will follow, saying “As for me an my household we will serve the Lord”. Neveling said he and his household had decided to serve the Lord. If the households in Helenvale made the same choice he was confident they would all work successfully together against crime.
Church leaders who addressed the gathering also called for greater community co-operation with the police. One of the coordinators of the event, Pastor Victor Jantjies, said that the church was willing to reach out to gangsters who wanted to leave that way of life.
“We will lead them to the Lord,” he said.
He said that in the case of gangsters who preferred to carry on with their criminal activities, the church and community would assist the police to arrest them.
“We will then visit them in prison and offer to lead them to the Lord there,” he said.
The prayer meeting in front of a row of shops in Kobus Street represented a significant step forward in church unity in the area and signaled the church’s intent to play a visible role in addressing the gang violence that has ravaged Helenvale this year. Residents waving flags and banners marched to the venue behind bands. The event included exuberant praise and worship and a time of spiritual warfare and intercession focusing on crime in Helenvale, Gelvandale and Schauderville; the SA Police Services and Justice Department; churches and church leaders in the Northern areas; and schools and the Department of Education. There was also a poignant time during which church leaders prayed individually with parents who felt unable to control their children who were involved in gangs.