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"Déjà vu All Over Again"

Dec 02, 2008 — Categories: ,

Another murder in a church; another domestic terror homicide. On Nov. 23, Joseph Pallipurath entered the St. Thomas Syarian Orthodox Kananaya Church in Clifton, NJ and killed his wife.

Another murder in a church; another domestic terror homicide. On Nov. 23, Joseph Pallipurath entered the St. Thomas Syarian Orthodox Kananaya Church in Clifton, NJ, and killed his wife.

He knew he could find her in church. Reshma James, 24, had left her abusive husband in California and moved in with relatives in New Jersey. She had restraining orders against him in both states. James’ relative and another church leader were critically injured in the attack.

Although the church and the community around it were shocked by this incident, the important thing to realize is that this is not unusual. Domestic terror is part of all our communities and can easily end up with these headlines announcing murder in a church, synagogue or mosque.

James had gone to her family for support, was attending church for support, and did all she could to be safe. Tragically neither her family, the church, nor the community could protect her from a husband who had come to take her back.

The sad lesson here is that every congregation should increase its awareness about domestic terror and have a safety plan in place for any victim who is attending services. For example, a battered woman should feel confident in sharing her dangerous situation with her congregation and its leaders. She should know that they will not betray her trust. If she has a protective order and knows her partner is dangerous, the church should have security at the entrances able to identify her abuser and immediately contact law enforcement. Those who care for her children in church should be kept informed to try to minimize the possibility of kidnapping them.

We should do everything we can to insure her and her children’s safety in church. The possibility of “sanctuary” takes on new meaning for a battered woman amd new responsibility for her faith community.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

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