Christians across the UK have been urged to remain vigilant after the threat of Islamic terrorist actions against places of worship.
In July, police forces in the UK wrote to churches warning them to step up their vigilance against possible attacks. This followed the Islamic terror attack on a French Catholic church in Normandy, when 84-year-old priest Father Jacques Hamel was forced to kneel while his throat was cut.
An elderly nun was also left injured by the two terrorists, one of whom was 19-year-old Adel Kermiche. He was shot by French police on site.
On 27 July, Islamic State warned that London and Washington DC were next on the list of target cities, with images threatening major world capitals being posted online, according to the Daily Mail.
The police letter also gave information on where further advice and guidance on personal security and security for places of worship could be obtained, as well as how to apply for government funding for security measures for places of worship.
At the time, deputy assistant commissioner Neil Basu said: ‘Following recent events in France, we are reiterating our protective security advice to Christian places of worship and have circulated specific advice. We are also taking this opportunity to remind them to review their security arrangements as a precaution’.
In response, Barnabas Fund made its Pray and protect booklet available for churches to download from its website. The 82-page booklet, which was published 18 months ago, gives practical guidance on how churches in the West can improve security without causing alarm or hampering the church’s outreach.
According to a BBC report at the end of August, the National Churchwatch organisation (http://www.nationalchurchestrust.org/national-churchwatch) has given churches practical advice on how to deal with potential terrorist activity.
The advice includes installing CCTV cameras and having an evacuation plan. It also advises having a single public entrance that can be slammed shut against attackers and personal attack alarms for key personnel.
The report says: ‘If someone produces a weapon during a service (and this will usually be a knife or blunt instrument) then you will need to get people out of the church. Do not let them just sit there and watch what is going on.
‘Think about how you would get the congregation out. This is especially important in larger churches where the children may be separated from their parents in a Sunday school’.
It is salutary for Western readers of this article to remember that large numbers of our brothers and sisters in Christ across the world regularly face similar threats from violent persecutors — sometimes including hostile governing authorities — as they bravely gather for Christian worship.