As part of the Safer and Stronger Communities in Europe (SASCE) project, the Conference of European Churches (CEC) conducted a training in Vienna for church leaders, church staff, and worshippers, helping them to ensure safer and stronger communities in Austria.
The training was held on 26 April, especially in the context of the 2020 terrorist attacks in the country, which have since resulted in high level security measures.
Austria is the fifth country where the SASCE project was introduced to local churches. During the training, video materials, security guidelines, and a Guide for Law Enforcement were given to the representatives of the Ecumenical Council of Austria, Executive Board of the Council and the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE).
Dr Elizabeta Kitanovic, CEC Executive Secretary, responsible for coordinating the SASCE project at CEC, together with Ophir Revach, CEO of Crisis and Security Center (SACC) by the European Jewish Congress, led the training in the meeting held at the CPCE premises.
The training was a first step to understanding proactive security policy. The participants discussed how to prevent possible emerging threats, and explored the value of having functional crisis management teams in parishes, dioceses and metropolis. Methods of effectively creating multipliers of the SASCE project on various levels and generating solidarity among religious communities, where they take a lead in implementing security policy for the protection of worship places, were also discussed.
While presenting the SASCE project, Dr Kitanovic underlined the importance of solidarity among religious communities during a crisis, stressing that all religious communities are safer together.
“Working together for a safer environment is key for success in achieving stronger security and safety for all people. We now have an example of solidarity among religious communities in a time of crisis, as observed in the case of Ukraine,” said Ophir Revach.
The Ecumenical Council in Austria will nominate a SASCE ambassador who will have the task of regularly reporting hate crimes or any damage to church property, individuals, church leaders and the community in general. The SASCE ambassadors will be further trained during the CEC Summer School taking place from 13 to 16 June 2022 in Malmö, Sweden.
Funded by the European Commission, the SASCE project is an outcome of European interfaith partnership, representing Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities. CEC is working together with religious partners to assist in the protection of places of worship across Europe.