(Note from Chuck: “I wrote this column Friday before ISIS actually attacked churches in Egypt on this Palm Sunday. My wife, Gena, and my hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. I can only believe God Himself has led me to write this safety column to help His children around the globe and U.S.”)
Like you, I despise the Islamic State, or ISIS, and I don’t feel we should even flinch with fear over any of its propaganda. The same is true for domestic and homegrown jihadist radicals. However, I think going to the other extreme by completely ignoring the threats or growing numbers is pure ignorance and leaves us incredibly vulnerable to attack.
Those polarizations caused me to ponder, encourage and challenge U.S. churches and synagogues, especially during Easter and Passover week.
I’ve written two columns over 10 years regarding the susceptibility of U.S. churches to terrorism (global and domestic): “Tis the season to increase security” (October 2013) and “Preventing more church shootings” (June 2015).
Since then, a global edict to radicals was issued against the West and Christendom specifically via the August 2016 edition of Dabiq, ISIS’ official magazine, which is named after the apocalyptic center of its caliphate. That 15th edition is titled “Breaking the Cross,” and it’s about its barbaric appeal to Westerners to convert. It calls to affiliates around the world to target Christians and other Western-isms.
The Clarion Project, or CP, reported, “Unlike previous issues which were primarily directed at Muslim-majority societies, this issue is full of propaganda aimed at converting non-Muslims to the Islamic State’s puritanical and bloodthirsty interpretation of Islam.”
CP elaborated: “Sections include ‘Why we hate you and fight you’ along with a conversion story, ‘Why I came to Islam,’ from a former Christian woman from Finland. The piece focuses on the supposed inconsistencies in Christianity as opposed to the alleged purity and simplicity of Islam.
“The main feature, ‘Breaking the Cross,’ is an extended rebuttal of Christian and Jewish theology which sets forth the arguments to believe in Islam. The bulk of the theological arguments are fairly standard lines of attack about the alleged absurdity of the Trinity and the alleged corruption of scripture by Jews and Christians such as many imams might argue.”
The Religion of Peace, a nonpartisan, fact-based site that examines the ideological threat Islam poses to human dignity and freedom, gives some amazing statistics.
On its website, it gives “a list of targeted acts of terrorism on Christian civilians and church workers by religious Muslims since September 11th, 2001. These attacks have nothing to do with war, combat or insurgency. The victims are innocent Christians who were specifically targeted and abused solely on account of their faith by those who claim their own religion as a motive.”
There have been roughly 30,587 Islamic attacks on Christians or churches since 9/11. Can you believe that many? You can view the specifics of the attacks by year on the website. And the lists are not complete accounts, as everyone recognizes there are a host of violent crimes that often go unreported.
In March 2017 alone, the Jihad Report looks like this:
Suicide blasts: 29
With such pervasive global jihadist assaults, it behooves churches and synagogues – abroad and at home – to do better to increase security and safety measures.
Check out these following statistics, compiled by Carl Chinn, church security expert and proprietor of CarlChinn.com, which is a website “to help churches and ministries recognize the need for intentional security and to provide simple concepts for starting or improving security programs.”
In 1999, there were roughly only 10 church violent crimes in the U.S. In 2007, there were 41 incidents. In 2009, there were 108. In 2012, there were more than 135. In 2013, there were 132. In 2014, there were 176. In 2015: 248. In 2016: 246. And there have already been 35 thus far in 2017.
Of course, Islamic radicalism is not responsible for most of those violent crimes, but the examples – as well as the threats – are growing nationally and internationally.
So what are U.S. churches and synagogues to do?
Here’s something I just learned from our own California pastor: There is free security assistance from our government specifically to help churches better prepare and be safe zones against domestic or international threats. No joke! Our pastor said it was the best use of taxpayers’ money he’s experienced in a decade.
His church received a personal and free “vulnerability assessment” report from the Central California Intelligence Center – a fusion facility under the Department of Homeland Security. Coast Guard reservist and intelligence analyst Brandon Lum and his partner, retired law enforcement officer and special agent Mike Bullian, conducted an on-site analysis of the church a month ago. Lum and Bullian then returned with a personalized, 20-page, detailed vulnerability assessment with photos and specific areas the church needs to beef up security and safety. They even spent several hours with our pastor’s safety team to offer their veteran expertise in helping the church prevent crime and protect itself. They said they have been doing so for many churches and synagogues around California. Way to go, Lum and Bullian! We salute your patriotism and work!
There are more than 75 state threat assessment (fusion) centers across our country, started post-9/11 under President George W. Bush to better equip and protect our citizens. If you, your church or synagogue is wanting a personal report, please locate the contact information for your state’s threat assessment center on the Department of Homeland Security website.
With the FBI explaining that there are more than 900 homegrown ISIS terrorists throughout all 50 U.S. states, is there really any excuse for ecclesiastical authorities to avoid better protecting their flocks?
I need to repeat what I said in a previous column: Faith is not an excuse to bypass self-defense. That’s not my original idea or position. It’s found in the Good Book.
As one verse says in the Jewish Scriptures: “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat” (Nehemiah 4:9). (Do church and synagogue leaders recognize the necessity and power of the conjunction “and” there?)
Even Jesus said when instructing His disciples: “… if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36).
I’ll say it again: Whether to global terrorists or domestic criminals, we must never give in to their intimidation and fear or allow them to restrict our thoughts, freedoms and actions. Indeed, leaders and congregants everywhere need to remember that houses of worship remain one of the safest places on the planet.
Here’s how your sanctuary safety measures up to other stats, according to Christianity Today:
- The chance you will die in the next 12 months from an injury are about one in 1,681.
- In a car accident, the odds are one in 6,539.
- In a plane crash, one in 502,554.
- From a hornet, wasp or bee sting, one in 3,615,940.
- From a lightning strike, one in 6,177,230.
- From church violence, one in 18,393,327.
And those odds dramatically decrease if your church establishes a safety or security team.
Now, that’s Gospel good news for Holy Week!
(For further assistance, I also recommend a few other great resources: Carl Chinn’s website, CarlChinn.com, and book, “Evil Invades Sanctuary,” Chapter 4 of which provides sound guidance on setting up a faith-based safety and security operation. Another great book and DVD is “Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self Defense,” which tells the story of how one congregant saved many lives when a church was gathered for prayer. Both are on sale now in the WND Superstore.)