Original Research

Death in worship places: Evaluating the roles of religious organisations and state governments in reducing the risks of religious disaster

Helena van Coller, Idowu A. Akinloye
Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies | Vol 13, No 1 | a1042 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jamba.v13i1.1042 | © 2021 Helena van Coller, Idowu A. Akinloye | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 August 2020 | Published: 12 July 2021

About the author(s)

Helena van Coller, Faculty of Law, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
Idowu A. Akinloye, Faculty of Law, Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Nigeria


The numbers of accidents and disasters resulting in injury and death of the faithful in religious buildings in many parts of the world are on the increase in recent years. Interestingly, the citizens of the countries where most of the cases are reported are overtly religious and manifest their religiosity by attending religious activities in religious buildings. This, therefore, heightens the impact of a disaster, such as where there is a religious building collapse or a stampede. The attendant social, legal and economic effects of such disasters on religious organisations, religious faithful and society thus necessitate the study. This article critically examines the roles of religious organisations and state governments in reducing the risks of avoidable disasters in religious buildings. It evaluates the reports of two instances of church building collapses in Nigeria as case studies. This article observes that many religious organisations do not have effective risk and safety policies to reduce their exposure to religious disasters. It also observes that the state is ineffective in enforcing building standards. It argues that religious organisations and the state owe a legal duty to protect the lives and guarantee the safety of the faithful against the tragedy that may occur in worship places, and where this duty is breached, and a victim suffers harm, a right to damages will accrue. It concludes that although a religious organisation may not be able to stop all such disasters, having an effective disaster risk policy can assist in reducing the occurrence of avoidable mishaps in religious buildings.


religion; religious disaster; accidents; injury; death.


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