09 March 2009

MURDERED: Father Lionel Sham

Body found of abducted cleric who always gave help

The Catholic Church in South Africa is reeling after another of its priests was found murdered yesterday — the second in 10 days.

The body of Fr Lionel Sham, 66, was discovered by police in Orange Farm, a sprawling informal settlement south of Johannesburg. He was abducted from his home at the weekend.

The death follows the brutal murder of a priest from Klerksdorp, North West, 10 days ago

Sham’s cousin, John Sham, called The Times early yesterday morning to say that the priest had been abducted from his home, attached to the Our Lady of Africa church in Mohlakeng, outside Randfontein, west of Johannesburg.

The family was hopeful that Sham would be found alive but late yesterday they were devastated when Sebokeng police told them that he had been murdered.

They are convinced that Sham was killed by someone to whom he had opened his door. He was known never to refuse help to those who asked for it.

His close friend, the Catholic Archbishop of Johannesburg, Buti Tlhagale, said Sham was a selfless servant of his congregation who had worked with troubled children at the Boys’ Town reformatory for nine years.

He was last seen alive when he presided over a wedding at 7pm on Friday night.

“On Saturday morning he was meant to attend a youth prayer meeting, but he did not show up, which was out of character ,Tlhagale said.

A spokesman for the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Fr Chris Townsend, said the priest from Klerksdorp, whose name he could not give The Times, was a young man murdered by a group of men to whom he had given a lift.

“He was stabbed repeatedly, bundled into the boot of his car and then buried in a shallow grave. The [killers] then drove to Johannesburg in the car and stopped outside a shop in Lenasia,” he said.

 “The shopkeeper became suspicious and alerted the police. They admitted to the police that they had killed the priest.”

Parishioners discovered that Sham’s car was missing on Saturday morning when they went to look for him.

They found blood and a knife in the priest’s bathroom but no evidence of forced entry.

Later that morning, Sham’s car was found crashed in Deneysville, near Vereeniging. A man police believe took part in the murder was dead in the white Toyota Corolla.

Later yesterday afternoon, police arrested a second suspect who led them to Orange Farm, said Captain Joseph Magoai

Before they learned of his death, Sham’s family and parishioners gathered at the church to pray for their beloved priest.

Parishioner Ephraim Sebele, 24, told The Times he was “heartbroken”.

“He was very kind, he gave people money and food whenever they needed help. But people took advantage of his kindness,” he said.

John Sham said his cousin was a loving man who cared deeply about helping the needy.

JP de Andrade, who knew Sham for “many years”, was deeply shaken on hearing of his murder.

“Two years ago, he was attacked at his parish in Westonaria and though he was upset by the experience he would not stop giving and welcoming people into his life and into his home,” he said.

“Charities and his congregations were his life. He always dropped off food at soup kitchens and helped street children and poor communities.”

Archbishop Tlhagale said “quite a few priests” had been “attacked and killed” in the “past two years”.

“There is a perception that there is money in the Catholic Church, and it is likely that a priest will be alone in his house. The sheer impunity — there was a time when people respected clergy,” he said.

Said Townsend: “The church stands with all who have fallen prey to crime. We commit ourselves to fighting crime in our sad society.”

March 9, 2009 5:02:00 AM CET



Anonymous said...

It Is Good To Do GOOD, But Charity Begins at Home. Priests must know that the real needy does not Knock on Doors and ask for charity... It appears that only the croocks and the Criminals who are pretending that they need help...
Priests Should learn that they can do charity in different other ways... Do not meet face to face with the begger, give your charity through your assistant and not dorectly from your hand... Keep your hand safe for the next charity deed...
You have a duty toward your self and toward your church, stay alive,to continue your mission...
Many Priests are dying because of ignorance and negligence...

Charles Pinsky said...

I grew up with Father Sham. We attended school together and lived in the same neighbourhood. In my 65 years he was one of only two people that I have met and judged to be 100% 'good'. There was no hidden agenda in any of his actions or words.

God bless you, Lionel.