Press Release No: 22/23
28 November 2023
Amid heightened tensions and conflicts in Europe and beyond, the panellists in a webinar organised by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) brought into focus the need for safety and security for religious communities and the protection of worship places that are under attack.
The webinar was moderated by Ms Kieryn Wurts of the European Baptist Union.
The speakers shared experiences from the project Safer and Stronger Communities in Europe (SASCE) that was carried out by CEC together with its Christian, Muslim and Jewish partners, implementing measures to increase security and protection of the worship places.
Sharing examples from Ukraine, Artsakh, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, Kosovo (1244), Cyprus and recently Gaza, Dr Elizabeta Kitanovic, CEC Programme Officer for Advocacy and Dialogue, highlighted the plight of churches and other religious places that have been destroyed.
“Hundreds of religious buildings have been damaged and looted as a result of the Russian invasion. Religious buildings have been seized to serve as Russian military bases, increasing the destruction of religious sites in Ukraine according to the Report on International Religious Freedom.”
Kitanovic went on to say that “These are violations of basic human rights and religious freedom. A trend that stresses the significance of projects like SASCE.”
Mr Ron Eichhorn, former President of the European Buddhist Union, shared how SASCE brought awareness of threats to the Buddhist monasteries in Europe, and how to prepare and react to the crisis. “SASCE has built a capacity that will continue for a long time,” Eichhorn added.
He said that the wars in Ukraine and Gaza show the increased need for security awareness and measures. “As the levels of violence - whether online or offline - surge, it is even more important for us to stand together as religious communities and work towards security.”
Ms Iman Atta, CEO of Faith Matters UK, brought attention to the conflict in the Middle East and its impact on Europe. She reflected on "the bridges that have been recently broken among communities due to the anger and grief” triggered by the conflict. She stressed how anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or hate against Christian churches are a real threat in the current environment. “It is really important for us as religious communities to reach out to each other. Take small steps and ask what help is needed in order to make sure we are all safe and secure together.”
Mr Ophir Revach, CEO of Security and Crisis Centre (SACC) by the European Jewish Congress, spoke of the significance of SASCE and the role it played in minimising risks and managing crisis. “It is important and crucial for all of us as citizens to have good cooperation with law enforcement agencies. Security awareness among community members can help a great deal,” he said.
For more information or an interview, please contact:
Conference of European Churches
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