24 Nov Measures for the Protection of Religious Sites from Terrorist Danger
According to the preamble of the United Nations Plan of Action for the Safeguarding of Religious Sites “religious sites are representative of the history, social fabric and traditions of people in every country and community all over the planet and must be fully respected as places of peace and harmony where worshipers feel safe to practice their rituals”.
Religious sites are designated structures and can be ancient or modern buildings, located in densely populated urban areas or in remote parts of a country, and can be natural spaces considered sacred even by more than one religious community, and where individuals or groups gather. They gather to pray, participate in ceremonies or perform acts of devotion and meditation. Close to places of worship and prayer can also be found daycare centers, educational structures, shelters for the homeless and facilities for various social and community programs.
Over the past few years an increasing number of religious sites are being targeted by terrorist attacks that seek to undermine even the religious community’s sense of belonging. For this reason, the United Nations General Assembly called on member states, in its seventh review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2021, to strengthen efforts to improve the security and protection of particularly vulnerable targets, including religious sites, as well as increasing its resilience to terrorist attacks, particularly in the area of civil protection.
The Global Program to Combat Terrorist Threats against Vulnerable Targets of the Office of Counterterrorism (UNOCT) has developed a guide on protecting religious sites from terrorist acts. It provides guidance for establishing sound policies and operational settings to reduce the vulnerabilities of religious sites and increase their resilience. The guide is in the reference link of this article.
The SHIELD project, partner of the NOTIONES project, is also focused on developing recommendations to protect places of worship from the risks of violent extremism. The project implements risk factor analysis and makes recommendations to religious leaders and congregations on how to improve security postures, in cooperation with law enforcement agencies and public authorities.
On December 1, 2022, NOTIONES will participate in the workshop organized by SHIELD in Rome, to talk about the role of Law Enforcement Agencies in protecting places of worship and to show the cooperation of the two projects in this action. More information can also be found on the SHIELD website.
Author: Francine Martin
Protecting religious sites from terrorist attacks. Retrieved from United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism: https://www.un.org/counterterrorism/sites/www.un.org.counterterrorism/files/2118451e-vt-mod4-religious_sites_final-web.pdf
SHIELD Project Website: https://shieldproject.eu/