Statement on Safety and Security of Places of Worship

A Statement by the Faith Communities Forum of the Inter Faith Network for the UK

Terrorist violence directed at places of worship and worshippers has become a recurrent and shocking phenomenon in recent times, with churches, gurdwaras, mandirs, mosques, synagogues and temples around the world targeted. The last two weeks, for example, have seen brutal attacks on clergy and worshippers at churches in Algeciras in Spain and Kankara in Nigeria, a synagogue in Jerusalem and a mosque in Peshawar in Pakistan. At these times, our prayers are with all affected.

These acts of violence are a reminder of the vulnerability of worship places. In the UK, where the Inter Faith Network for the UK’s work is focused, there is continued concern for the safety of places of worship. Ongoing steps to increase that, where necessary, are being taken or encouraged, and planned new legislation is relevant to potential threat of terrorist attacks. 

As the ODIHR noted last year, “Establishing, maintaining, and accessing places and objects of worship or contemplation are crucial to the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, which applies during conflict and in times of peace.”  Hatred targeting places of worship and their worshippers - whether expressed in outright violence or through actions such as graffitiing or other vandalism - is a scourge that cannot be tolerated. There must be freedom for all communities to worship and practise their faith freely and without fear.

In the UK context, we urge continued vigilance where safety of places of worship is concerned and expression of solidarity by those of different faiths and beliefs where there is the threat or actuality of an attack. “An attack on one is an attack on all”.

Places of worship are both vital to their own worshipping communities and many, increasingly, are also hubs for wider community support and meeting. It is our hope that, taking into account the need for appropriate security, places of worship will remain open and be able to be welcoming to the highest degree possible. 

3 February 2023

Notes

  1. Media queries to the Inter Faith Network: email ifnet@interfaith.org.uk.   
  2. This statement can be found at http://interfaith.org.uk/resources/statements-and-messages and a copy of IFN’s statement making policy at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/uploads/Policy_on_making_of_statements.pdf.   
  3. Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHI) reference: https://www.osce.org/odihr/524394. The ODIHR is part of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.   
  4. Reference to the legislation pending refers to the Protect Duty. Summary information can be found at: https://homeofficemedia.blog.gov.uk/2022/12/19/martyns-law-factsheet/
  5. The National Counter Terrorism Security Office provides resources to assist places of worship on security: https://www.protectuk.police.uk/
  6. Looking After One Another, the Safety and Security of Our Faith Communities – published by the Inter Faith Network for the UK in partnership with the then Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Home Office, the Crown Prosecution Service, the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the National Fire Chiefs’ Council. https://www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/looking-after-one-another-the-safety-and-security-of-our-faith-communities-2017
  7. Advice on staying safe from terrorism can be found at https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/t/terrorism-in-the-uk/staying-safe-from-terrorism/
  8. Report hate crimes and incidents online through True Vision or via 3rd parties eg those listed below; at a police station; or by ringing the police on 101 (non-emergency) or 999 (emergency).  
    https://gov.uk/report-hate-crime 
    https://www.scotland.police.uk/contact-us/report-hate-crime-and-third-party-reporting/
    https://reporthate.victimsupport.org.uk/hate-crime/
    https://www.psni.police.uk/safety-and-support/advice-and-information/hate-crime
    True Vision: https://www.report-it.org.uk/ 
    Community Security Trust: https://cst.org.uk/report-incident 
    Tell Mama: https://tellmamauk.org/ 
    Sikh Guard: https://sikhguard.org/
    Stop Hate UK: https://www.stophateuk.org/ 
  9. The Inter Faith Network for the UK www.interfaith.org.uk was founded in 1987 to advance public knowledge and mutual understanding of the teachings, traditions and practices of the different faith communities in Britain and to promote good relations between people of different faiths in this country. It works with its member bodies and others to carry out these aims.  
  10. IFN links in membership: national faith community representative bodies; national, regional and local inter faith bodies; and academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter faith issues.  www.interfaith.org.uk/members    
  11. IFN member National Faith Community Representative Bodies meet together as the Faith Communities Forum of IFN. https://www.interfaith.org.uk/about/faith-communities-forum     
  12. The current Moderators of the Faith Communities Forum are: Co-Moderators: The Revd Canon Hilary Barber (Christian); and Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg (Jewish); and Vice-Moderators: Minister Julia Almond (Spiritualist); Dr Desmond Biddulph (Buddhist); Mr Hassan Joudi (Muslim); Ms Trupti Patel (Hindu); Mr Neil Pitchford (Druid/Pagan); Mr Satnam Singh Poonian (Sikh); Ms Tracey Prior (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints); and Dr Riaz Sanatian (Baha’i).  The Co-Chairs of IFN are the Revd Canon Hilary Barber and Mr Narendra Waghela.

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