Leading security expert coming to the Oxford Diocese

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Mike Whine. Photo: CST

A LEADING expert on the security of faith buildings is coming to the Diocese of Oxford to help us learn how to protect our places of worship.

In an event taking place in December, the Community Security Trust – an organisation set up initially to help keep the Jewish community safe – will be at Church House Oxford.

Mike Whine, an advisor to the UK Government and CST’s Government and International Affairs Director, will be here to explain how to guard against attacks on our congregations and buildings.

CST draws on experience going back 70 years and while initially set up in the wake of growing antisemitism, has broadened its work to help all faith communities to stay safe.

Becoming a charitable trust in 1994, with the backing of the then Chief Commissioner of Police and the Home Secretary, it has continued to develop it’s expertise. Following the devastating attacks on churches in Sri Lanka at Easter, the CST received 140 requests for security advice from faith communities.

“That’s a phenomenal amount,” says Mike. Rather than visit individual churches, synagogues, mosques and other faith buildings, CST is encouraging groups to get together for their events. Mike recently spoke to a group of representatives from cathedrals up and down the UK. “We like to get groups of at least three or four faith communities together, so we are talking to 30 or 40 people,” he says.

“Terrorism manifests itself abroad more than here,” says Mike, who is aware that in some countries, the Army will actively patrol to protect faith buildings. However, that is not practical here, nor is there capacity for police to patrol the streets in the vicinity of every place of worship. So faith communities are advised to take steps to protect themselves.

“Synagogues are advised to lock the doors until people arrive for services then close them later. We advise churches to maintain a discreet but friendly and welcoming presence at their entrances,” says Mike, who had recently spoken with a London church leader from the Evangelical Alliance. He was involved with an Afro-Carribean church which attracted a couple of thousand people every Sunday. “It has metal detection arches at the entrance and volunteers are welcoming, but trained in security,” says Mike.

While the cost and practicalities of court-building style security wouldn’t be practical, nor arguably necessary for most churches in the Diocese of Oxford, there are simple things congregations can do. One of those is getting to know the other faith communities in their area – fostering good interfaith relations. Another is to appoint someone, whether a volunteer or a professional, who will take control of security. “Also possibly recruit some volunteers who will control access to the church and educate church members to be security-aware,” adds Mike.

The CST event takes place at Church House Oxford on Monday 16 December, 1pm – 4pm. Tickets can be booked here.