Nigerian church slab collapse confirms our safety responsibility

Mabila Mathebula unpacks some unintended health and safety consequences.

The Nigerian church slab collapse in September 2014 that killed 84 South African pilgrims, reminds us that safety is a human responsibility that cannot be delegated to God.

“In the first century, a large tower in Jerusalem fell, killing eighteen people (Luke 13:4). Still many scaffoldings and buildings worldwide kill workers and other people.” I wrote these words three years ago, urging churches to integrate health and safety values in their practices.

There is no city in the world prayed for as much as Jerusalem. The Psalmist declares: “Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces”. Yet a tower in Siloam fell and killed 18 people in Jerusalem.

Churches should take a leaf out of the Vedic literature, that non-injury is the highest of all virtues; Ahimsa Paramo Dharmah.

The legal code of Babylonian King Hammurabi of BC 220, prescribes punishment of overseers for injuries suffered by workers.

There is a misperception among some believers that religion and safety are incongruent, or that religion places all trust in the higher hand. This is a fallacy! Safety is an age-old management responsibility, as confirmed even in religious history.

The first five books of the Old Testament by Moses, include social and safety values, cultural codes, and health codes including diet. The church should be built on rock and faith.

The body is a temple, and sacred gatherings are collective spiritual weddings. Everyting has to be safe, healthy, with low environmental impact, and of high quality, or ‘Sheq’.

One of the human challenges is the ability to distinguish the essence of matter from form. We have to start with form, then we are free to invest form with substance.

The responsibility for safety is a human responsibility which cannot be delegated to God.

Spiritual intelligence supports safety

We look at incidents in a ‘rear view mirror’, with the wisdom of hindsight, but there is often less wisdom in our prevention efforts.

We need intellectual, emotional and spiritual intelligence, the latter based on multiple meanigs and value in a wider human context, writes Mabila Mathebula.

SQ is soul’s intelligence by which we recognise universal values, beyond the conventional, as Zohar and Marshall wrote in 2000. Indications of a highly developed SQ are:• capacity to be flexible (actively and spontaneously adaptive).
• high degree of self-awareness.
• capacity to face and use suffering.
• capacity to face and transcend pain.
• quality of being inspired by vision and values.
• reluctance to cause unnecessary harm.
• tendency to see the connection between diverse things (holism).
• tendency to ask “Why” or “What if” and seek fundamental answers.
• ‚field-independent‘ facility for working against convention.

Noah followed safe construction instructions from God. He used the right materials, dimensions and coating inside and out.

We dare not delay the implementation of health and safety management in our churches, mosques and synagogues. A religious organisation without health and safety management is not built on rock.

Churches have to embrace the five elements of wise reasoning proposed by Grossman (cited in Southey);[] Willingness to seek opportunities to resolve conflict;
[] Willingness to search for a compromise;
[] Recognition of the limits of personal knowledge;
[] Awareness that more than one perspective on a problem can exist;
[] Appreciation that things may get worse before they get better.

In the article titled Churches should promote HS values and culture I wrote three years ago: “We need a safety indaba in the Evangelical industry to highlight the hazards, risks and opportunities for enhancing values and culture, including transport risks, fatigue risks, fire risks, and work task risks”.

For the conservative paradigms of churches to change, they need to become learning organisations and abandon the ‘pharisee’ mentality that deveopes only on theory and is insulated from the real world and from learning.

• Mabila Mathebula is a senior researcher at the SA Railway Safety Regulator. He writes for on Sheq cultural issues in his personal capacity.

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Mabila Mathebula

Mabila Mathebula (BA North West University, BA Hon UNISA, MBA Milpark Business School, Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Project Management at Cranefield College), is currently engaged in a PhD study in construction health and safety management.

About the Author

Mabila Mathebula
Mabila Mathebula (BA North West University, BA Hon UNISA, MBA Milpark Business School, Post Graduate Diploma in Advanced Project Management at Cranefield College), is currently engaged in a PhD study in construction health and safety management.

1 Comment on "Nigerian church slab collapse confirms our safety responsibility"

  1. vincent holloway | 25 September 2014 at 06:41 |

    Mabila, thanks for the article, thanks for enlarging the scope.
    I think it’s important to draw a distinction between Body, Spirit and Soul.
    The first is temporary – a vapor, the second is renewed at salvation, the third is eternal.

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