CHURCHES and other places of worship at risk from religiously motivated hate-crime have eight weeks to apply for Government cash to improve their security, after the announcement of a new fund this week.
The £2.4-million fund was announced by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, on Tuesday, together with a hate-crime action-plan that includes a review of the police’s handling of hate crimes after a rise in incidents since the EU referendum. Figures released by the police last week show more than 6000 alleged hate crimes were reported in the month from the middle of June to July, in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
The daily rate peaked at 289 reports on 25 June — the day after the referendum result was announced. The main type of offence reported was “violence against the person”.
Churches, mosques, and temples are invited to apply for money from the fund to improve their security, if they can show they are at risk from hate crime.
Synagogues are excluded from the scheme because the Government has already committed to funding enhanced security protection for Jewish sites from another fund.
The director of the Roman Catholic National Office for Vocation, Fr Christopher Jamieson OSB, said on BBC Radio 4 this week: “We will certainly look at that [fund] and take common-sense steps to protect the churches. . . But it is really important the church remains a place of sanctuary.”
Places of worship will need to provide evidence that they need increased security. The money could be used for CCTV equipment, locks, controlled gates, and security doors; and the grants will also cover the cost of fitting the equipment.
Each place of worship would need, however, to contribute a fifth of the total cost itself, the Home Office said.
The Church in Wales has released a statement urging its clergy to be “extra vigilant” in the wake of the attack in a church in Normandy on Tuesday (News, 29 July). A spokesperson said that security had been reviewed in all its buildings and “personal safety advice” issued to clerics.
“We are urging all our clergy to be extra vigilant and to contact the police immediately at any hint of a problem. At the same time, however, we recognise that clergy have an important public role to fulfil and need to be accessible to everyone and that ultimately none of us is immune from attack by those out to cause harm.”
Meanwhile a group faith communities met in east London last week in a stand against racism. The network “Faithful Friends” in Forest Gate is encouraging places of worship to offer a wider welcome.
The director of the network, the Revd Dr Chigor Chike, who is the Vicar of Emmanuel Church in Forest Gate, wrote in a letter: “The period following the Brexit vote has become very alarming. Many people are concerned about the safety of the community. We want each person to have respect for the faith and ethnicity of others.”