The Shield Project first workshop that was allocated to Italy timely took place on the 1st of December 2022 in Aula Magna of the Grande Moschea di Roma. The project approved and sponsored by the Internal Security Fund of the European Union has the Objective to preserve churches, mosques and synagogues from violent extremism.
SHIELD stands for SolutionS to enHance Interfaith protEction of pLaces of worship from terrorist Danger.
SHIELD’s consortium is made up of 18 partners from 10 EU countries, engaged for two years: Active since January 2022, the Shield mission will last until December 2023. SHIELD project foresees the 4 working packages (WP):
1 – analysis of critical points, resilience activities and risks. The tasks of WP2 activities will lay the foundations for the definition of prevention and mitigation strategies, to be identified in WP3;
2- identification of safety and security measures. The aim of WP3 is to identify technologies and procedures that can meet the needs and mitigate the vulnerabilities outlined in WP2;
3 – WP4 aims at developing training sessions and simulations to test, validate and evaluate the methodological, technological and procedural solutions identified in WP3;
4 – the dissemination and communication plan and WP5 will ensure to reach and involve the stakeholders and target groups to promote and ensure the sustainability of the project outcomes.
Implementing risk factors’ analysis, SHIELD is to enhance security postures at places of worship through improving the coordination, cooperation, and communication between law enforcement agencies, public authorities, faith leadership and congregations.
The combination of the Shield protective and risk factors’ analysis brings together stakeholders and target groups to develop new measures to ensure the safeguard of these places and the resilience of believers with different faiths.
In this mid-term Workshop 2022, prominent institutional, social, religious and political guest speakers that attended, contributed in presence or online to the Shield seminar, and those that were unable and delegated, were enthusiastic with this Shield Project’s initiative to foster the interfaith efforts and brainstorm the complex phenomenon of violent extremism. These religious, institutional and political representatives worked on various guidelines. First of all, the risk and vulnerability assessment of places of worship, with an analysis of past terrorist attacks in reference to Christian buildings there had been 43 in the last 20 years, with two events in which people died. Then they went on to analyze the current safety and prevention measures, trying to understand the limits for potential improvements. Finally they talked about a reality simulation and some surveys to understand how to encourage collaborations.
“There will be no peace in the world without peace between religions. And there will never be peace between religions if there is no dialogue, which must start from two concepts: love and fraternity”, Nader Akkad the Imam of the Great Mosque of Rome, said in his opening speech.
“Mosques, churches, synagogues are the abodes of the Lord and we must protect them more than our home. We remain hand in hand to bring forward a new model in which all faiths feel like religious brothers and sisters”, he added.
Rabbi Rav Scialom Bahbout in his speech emphasized, “terrorism is changing form and adapting to new technologies”, therefore to counteract it, “we must remain united and help each other”.
Monsignor Jean Marie Gervais, Coadjutor Prefect of the Chapter of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, in underlining “the importance of security at the Vatican, with the agents engaged in this every day, without, however, disturbing the spirituality of the place”, also quoted from a speech by Pope Francis, who in 2016 asked to no longer justify the hate attacks claimed in the name of religion: “We must use mutual aid, dialogue and tolerance to defeat the phenomena of violence”
Towards the end on the program after lunch break, it was another impressing occasion for the consortium partners, the guests and stakeholders to take the opportunity and tour the historical patrimonial Grande Mosque, observe its structural physical foundation and the showcasing of the center’s contribution to the bringing together of the different faiths, a factor that is fundamental in contributing to the feasibility research on the risk factors and the vulnerability assessment of the places of worship.
The workshop was terminated with a Shield Consortium Round-Table Meeting, the first of its kind not online since the project was launched early this year.
Dr Abdellah M. Cozzolino