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Training Program for Faith Leaders, Heads of PoWs and ConsortiumOrganisations’ Staff

The cycle of three sessions crafted within the Protone Project to train faith leaders, worshippers and consortium members’ staff on the subject of security at places of worship came to an end this April. In a three-month frame, the sessions introduced participants to working definitions, concepts, and risk assessment manuals, and established a common approach to furthering collaboration with faith leaders, practitioners, civil society organisations and researchers, based on the combination of security management and interfaith skills.

The training sessions were conducted by Leiden University, which integrated findings from fieldwork and a comprehensive literature review (D2.1), and Istituto Tevere which incorporated their expertise in inter-faith dialogue and collaboration in the program.  

A significant part of the program was dedicated to the conduct of risk assessments and the establishment of security protocols. It explained to participants how to conduct a risk assessment 1) in the surrounding environment; 2) inside the place of worship (technical assessment) and 3) among the worshippers (behavioural assessment).

The risk assessment led to reason starting from a set of questions concerning the security needs of worshippers such as “Are there limits/challenges in laws and regulations that prevent my religious community from freely expressing their religion or obtaining a place of worship?”, “What are the general attitudes towards my religious community by the general public?”, “Do people in my congregation express the need for more security?”, “Has there been a recent attack on my religious community? Has it impacted worshippers?”.

The program also tackled the questions concerning more specifically the threats to places of worship, such as “What threats has the POW encountered in the last 10-20 years?”, “Do I know what to do in the case of a fire at my POW?”, “Do I know what to do in the case of an attacker at my POW?”.

A special session was conducted by Prof. Arnold Mol from the Islamic University of Applied Sciences in Rotterdam about the evolving identities of Muslims in the Netherlands. Prof. Mol distinguished between secular and multicultural European societies and used statistics in the Netherlands to demonstrate rates of Islamophobia, changing perceptions of Muslims towards their multicultural societies, and the intersections between faith and secularism in today's Netherlands.

The training sessions achieved at least four objectives. Firstly, they empowered faith leaders, community leaders and consortium members’ staff with useful information to serve as advocates for the protection of places of worship in a sensitive way within their respective organizations and communities, including the importance of conducting risk assessments and inserting desirable security measures. Secondly, they familiarised participants with the legal dimensions of protecting places of worship, including issues related to the relations between state and faith communities, religious freedom and privacy. Thirdly, the training sessions succeeded in knowledge exchange between researchers in security studies, civil society actors and faith leaders in the implementation of protective security in religious spaces. Finally, consortium members were provided concrete guides on risk assessment and related information that they can use to create workshops on the same subject at the local level.

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