PYRZOWICE, POLAND, October 19, 2023. The European Union’s ISF-funded project “SHRINEs“ has revolutionized the protection of places of worship. This groundbreaking initiative, spanning 24 months, aims to enhance security and safety in sacred spaces while fostering an interfaith and multidisciplinary network to address contemporary risks and threats.
Project Objectives and Partnerships
SHRINEs is a consortium consisting of 10 partners, including 4 religious organizations representing the Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Protestant faiths. It also includes public and private entities, academic institutions, and Law Enforcement Agencies. This collaboration aims to identify innovative technological solutions and effective mitigation measures to safeguard places of worship from criminal activities, man-made attacks, and natural disasters.
Religious communities, law enforcement agencies, and public authorities are collaborating to assess risks, threats, and cooperation opportunities for the effective protection of places of worship. Technology developers are also working on innovative solutions to enhance the safety and security of these sacred spaces.
Hackathon Event: “Tech for SHRINEs”
A Hackathon event named “Tech for SHRINEs” was held in Assisi, Italy to determine the most efficient solutions for countering threats and raising awareness. A Committee of Experts assessed different technological solutions to improve the security of places of worship and their visitors using advanced technology.
Key Workshop in Poland
The SHRINEs project took a significant step with its 2nd Workshop in Poland on October 17th-18th, 2023. The workshop aimed to evaluate threats and vulnerabilities to places of worship. It featured expert-led discussions on security and safety.
On 17th October 2023, the conference room at Katowice Airport hosted a gathering of experts, scholars, and practitioners focused on protecting places of worship. This event marked the start of the 2nd Workshop of the SHRINEs project, an initiative leading the way in ensuring the safety and security of these sacred sites.
The day started with anticipation as participants gathered for registration. Among those present were representatives from religious organizations, law enforcement agencies, academic institutions, and other key stakeholders. The event began with a welcoming introduction, setting the tone for an engaging and productive session.
Led by Professor Adrian Siadkowski from the University of Łódź, a series of discussions unfolded. Conclusions from the 1st workshop in Nice, presented by Dr. Marco Dugato of the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Italy, shed light on the threats faced by places of worship. These findings were complemented by the experiences shared by Ana Guillem Sanchez from the Elche Local Police in Spain, illustrating successful cooperation between local law enforcement and religious site managers.
Dr. Łukasz Szymankiewicz from WSB University in Poland introduced the concept of “Security by Design” in the European Union framework. This approach emphasizes the importance of proactive measures in security planning.
Robin Edwards from ONIS, UK, elucidated the impact of heritage crime on places of worship and its mitigation through effective partnerships and best practices. Additionally, Dr. Fabio Giulio Tonolo and Dr. Lorenzo Teppati Lose from Politecnico di Torino, Italy, presented a white paper outlining innovative technologies to safeguard cultural heritage from diverse risks.
Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Scientology, Christian Orthodox
A unique aspect of this workshop was the active involvement of all participants. Open discussions took place, allowing voices from all backgrounds to be heard, be it from academia, law enforcement, and even the different religious communities like the Catholic Church, Jewish Community, Greek Orthodox Church, the Church of Scientology and others. This created a rich tapestry of perspectives and insights, contributing to a deeper understanding of the challenges facing places of worship.
The event moved to a study session at “Katowice” Airport, where participants explored the implementation of security measures commonly used to protect critical infrastructure and public spaces for safeguarding religious sites.
Ivan Arjona, in representation of the Scientologists, said after the workshop “I am happy to have been invited to participate in such a team task joining academia and representatives from different religions. This goes along with what our founder L. Ron Hubbard intended from the beginning of our religion, which is to work hand in hand with other denominations to create a safer place and a better world”.
Coal Mine Guido and Jasna Gora Sanctuary
The evening ended with a lively networking cocktail event, held in the distinctive setting of the historic Coal Mine “Guido” in Zabrze, situated 320 meters underground. It provided an opportunity to establish connections, carry on conversations, and contemplate the substantial progress achieved throughout the day.
On the 2nd day of the SHRINEs project workshop, participants embarked on a meaningful journey to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Jasna Gora. This sacred place is a testament to Poland’s spiritual and historical heritage, holding great significance for pilgrims and visitors from all over.
Before the visit, the workshop participants were welcomed by the Prior of the Shrine, embracing all religions and academia. Exploring this revered sanctuary allowed the participants to immerse themselves in its captivating history and gain a deeper understanding of its influence on Polish culture and identity. A particular highlight was the exploration of the shrine’s security measures, safeguarding valuable cultural treasures for centuries.
The workshop was a crucial component of the SHRINEs project, bringing together experts and stakeholders to discuss threats, vulnerabilities, and innovative solutions for safeguarding places of worship. It emphasized the importance of collaboration in establishing a secure environment for worshippers and visitors.
The SHRINEs project demonstrates the impact of collaboration and innovation in protecting places of worship. By engaging in interfaith dialogue and employing advanced technologies, the project aims to establish a safer and more secure setting for worshippers and visitors.