In response to the rising trend of targeted hate incidents, an interfaith religious group in Colorado has organized a workshop with help from law enforcement aimed at teaching the community how to safeguard their places of worship.
The annual Protecting Houses of Worship workshop, hosted by the Colorado Muslim Society, aims to foster a sense of safety and solidarity among different faith traditions.
Nirmeen El Sayed, the office manager for the Colorado Muslim Society, spoke about the importance of creating a sanctuary within places of worship.
“We want people to come, feel protected, bond. All houses of worship need and want to feel that security,” she said.
Recognizing the need for collaboration, the workshop brings together individuals from various faiths and law enforcement agencies to discuss strategies for enhancing the safety of mosques, temples and churches.
El Sayed further explained the objectives of the workshop.
“We want houses of worship to learn how to identify their vulnerabilities, how to partner up with their federal and local law enforcement agencies, how to identify a threat and be aware of their surroundings, and how to respond during an attack to minimize casualties,” she stated.
In recent years, Colorado has experienced its share of threats and attacks targeting religious institutions. Incidents such as the 2017 attack on the Islamic Center in Fort Collins, the 2019 threat to a Jewish temple in Pueblo and the recent attempted church arson in Loveland highlight the urgency for faith communities to bolster their security measures.
These incidents are reflective of a broader nationwide trend of escalating attacks against houses of worship.
El Sayed emphasized the need to equip faith leaders with the knowledge and skills to protect their followers in the current climate.
“There is a higher threat against the Muslim community, the Jewish community and we’ve seen just this past Ramadan, where there was an attack on an imam,” she added.
Despite ongoing threats and the risks of attacks, faith communities in Colorado remain resilient. The workshop serves as an opportunity for these communities to enhance their preparedness and take proactive measures to ensure the safety of their congregants.
El Sayed affirmed the group’s commitment.
“We’re not going to close down our places of worship; we’re going to continue to worship, but we are going to learn how to protect ourselves and our communities.”
The annual workshop, held in a different location each year, is open to the public, fostering inclusivity and promoting a collective effort to create safer environments for all houses of worship.