Safe and secure – together

New Scotland Yard did us proud yesterday - thank you Commander Chishty, C Supt Dave Stringer & Insp Andy Burton

New Scotland Yard did us proud yesterday – thank you Commander Chishty, C Supt Dave Stringer & Insp Andy Burton

With officers from NYPD joining us (true!), and people from over 70 temples, Islamic centres, gurdwaras, churches and synagogues across London, we had a great time yesterday at New Scotland Yard.

We learned a lot – from each other, from our guest speakers Tell Mama, Community Security Trust and Ecclesiastical Insurance and from the Met themselves.

How do we, practically, keep our buildings and people safe and secure?  How do we mind each other’s backs – co-ordinating support across the places of worship in our neighbourhood?  What about social media?  Lone workers?  Or if disaster hits London – disease, flood, attack?

Bespoke, tailored training is on its way, courtesy of LBFN’s Safety & Security Social Lab, working with the Metropolitan Police and partners.  Let us know if you’re interested.  We’ll upload the checklists and presentations soon.

Thank you Bharti Taylor, Steve Miller, RashidAli Laher, Surinder Singh Jandu & Archdeacon Paul Wright for setting the scene and to everyone for searching questions and positive ideas for the next steps.

It wasn’t all doom & gloom or death by PowerPoint – LBFN meetings are nothing if not very social, and the cream cakes all disappeared.

Keeping safe & secure | New Scotland Yard | 22 April

Security Briefing 22 April 9amCome to New Scotland Yard on Wednesday 22 April 9am – 10.30am for security briefings from Commander Mak Chishty & the Metropolitan Police and also from specialists Tell MAMA, the Community Security Trust & Ecclesiastical Insurance.

Religiously motivated hate crime has been on the rise for some time.  The threat level from international terrorism to the UK was raised to severe last August.  Attacks overseas and here in London have knock-on effects locally.

In spite of this, local people from many different traditions continue to build strong relationships across religion and belief boundaries and to stand in solidarity with each other in times of crisis.  The sustained work of local faith forums, multifaith networks and councils plays a very significant role.

Building on this, we’ll hear expert advice on keeping safe & secure from specialist organisations and listen to the particular challenges faced by different communities.

We will also discuss practical ways in which we can support each other quickly and effectively in the event of a threat (to buildings or to people), desecration, or abuse on social media.

We will be pulling together some key points to help us improve our own safety and that of our neighbours.

If you have questions you would like to ask, it would be a great help if you emailed LBFN’s convener in advance.

Local places of worship and religious & belief communities are all welcome.

Please download the invitation and pass on to your local churches, Islamic centres, synagogues, gurdwaras, temples and meeting houses.

ThiyaPlease register your name (by noon on 21 April) to be added to the guest list, arrive early at 8.45am and bring photo ID to clear security.

LBFN’s Tara Thiyagarajan (left) will meet everyone at the Reception Desk.  We would like to start promptly at 9am and look forward to seeing you there.

Security for the London 2012 Games

From the BBC news website.

I have been in touch with our Home Office contacts regarding changes in security for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The concern many of us had earlier in the year was that private security guards would not have the local knowledge nor the training to carry out security duties satisfactorily – they might not be able to ‘read’ a situation as well as local police officers and would not necessarily know about religious customs and clothing.  We were reassured that security guards would be adequately trained and the London 2012 Games would be ‘blue’ – in other words, policed by police officers rather than other personnel.

Now that G4S has been unable to supply sufficient security guards, you will have seen in the news that the armed forces will be filling the gap.  I believe this applies only to venue security, although the areas around the various venues may also be affected.

Asst Chief Inspector Tom Wingate of the Olympic Policing Coordination Team, who has attended our meetings and conducted briefings at Scotland Yard, kindly sent me the Home Secretary’s statement last week (which you can download here), along with a further statement:

This is not about policing the streets of London but of venue security.  The assurance process that the Home Office has put in place provides robust and effective scrutiny of security planning, including venue security.

  • The process also ensures that the challenges which can be expected in an operation of this magnitude and size are being identified and addressed ahead of the Games.
  • Security plans have also been tested thoroughly, and while we are confident that all our partners, including G4S, will deliver a safe and secure Games, we are not complacent and will leave nothing to chance.
  • Venue security is being delivered by LOCOG (as events organiser), G4S and the military. The Home Office is vigorously holding these parties to account for successful delivery.
  • This is a huge operation to protect more that 100 venues. Delivering it is a big challenge.
  • Tried and tested contingency plans involving the deployment of military personnel are also in place to ensure the safety of Olympic venues.

It’s clear that the government and LOCOG want to ensure that London is safe and that Londoners will not be policed by the military, but it looks as though the armed forces will be asked to conduct security checks.  Tom assures me that he will let us know as soon as operational details have been decided.  He has also confirmed that none of the military drafted in for these purposes will be armed.

Let me know if you have any concerns or can offer advice to those responsible for training the military personnel in their new roles.  We are also in touch with British Transport Police, which polices the tube and railway network.

European Network on Religion and Belief – Brussels May 2012

Walking Madou – the entrance to a no-car zone in Brussels where children play on the street.  Several enorb participants stayed overnight at the nearby Institute of Cultural Affairs.

People from over 50 organisations gathered from across Europe yesterday and today in Brussels for mutual understanding and shared action.  Some were from religious traditions, some were from belief*/non-confessional/convictional/humanist/philosophical traditions.

A round table meeting was held at the EU Parliament with Vice-President Laszlo Surjan.  We discussed the contribution of religious and non-religious communities to overcoming discrimination, violence and extremism in Europe.

Several LBFN members had made suggestions for our contribution on moving from anger and violence to dialogue and positive action: I included the aftermath of 7/7 and the shooting of Jean-Charles de Menezes, Hate Crime Forums, responses to the protests against Harrow Mosque’s new minaret and the role of women.  Thank you to everyone who was in touch about this.

Here are some photos of the event.

Vice-President Laszlo Surjan (third from left) at enorb’s round table at the EU Parliament, with (l-r) Melissa Sonnino (CEJI), Jackie Goymour (Women’s Interfaith Network & LBFN) and Alan Murray (President of enorb).

Harjinder Singh (Sangat Sahib Gurudwara) and Martin Gurvich (Hindu Forum Europe – and enorb’s treasurer).

Catriona Robertson (Convener, LBFN, centre) speaking on how local communities move from violence to positive action, with Yolande Iliano (Chair, Religions for Peace – Europe, left) and Karen Walkden (LBFN, right). Thanks to Melissa Sonnino for the photo.

Georges Lienard (G3i) addressing the round table on Secular European Traditions: what contribution to European security?

Alan Murray (AFAN) and Dennis de Jong MEP.  Dennis spoke at today’s meeting.  He has brought together an all-party group of MEPs to support freedom of religion and belief – whatever your outlook on life, he said, religious or otherwise, you need the opportunity to reflect on it. The group is also in touch with the External Action Service, noting that it was slow to respond to the Arab Spring last year.

Amarjit Kaur (United Sikhs Belgium) who described the difficulties facing Sikh schoolchildren in Belgium in relation to religious dress.

Augustine Booth-Clibborn (Inter Faith Network UK) and Abdullah Faliq (The Cordoba Foundation)

Helene Egnell (Centre for Inter Faith Dialogue in the Diocese of Stockholm) and Hannah Wallace (consultant with the Tony Blair Faith Foundation).

Karim Chemlal (Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe), Alan Murray (All Faiths and None) and Gérard Delfau (Egalité-Laïcité- Europe).

Sayed Ali Abbas (Majlis Ulema Europe), Hannah Wallace, Catriona Robertson and Tinci Singh (United Sikhs).

Exchanges between enorb member groups across Europe was a popular idea.  There’s no substitute for visiting a local network in another country to learn about the different contexts and challenges – and in return, welcoming them to, for example, London.

It was inspiring to meet so many practitioners from across Europe who are building communities of trust in their own countries and who are committed to working with each other on a European level.

The enorb website is now live and will carry photos and reports of the Brussels meeting soon.

*The words we use to describe each other haven’t found consensus yet – a Buddhist participant reminded us that many Buddhists are both religious and non-confessional.

ENORB Round Table & Reception in Brussels

Come & meet people from across Europe who are doing the kinds of thing LBFN members do – building trust across different religions and beliefs, combating discrimination and prejudice, working locally and with public sector partners for the common good.

LBFN has been actively making links across Europe for a few years and has been part of the European Network on Religion and Belief development group from the start.  We’ve held a couple of gatherings in London – the last at Europe House in Westminster.

The topic for ENORB’s first meeting at the EU Parliament on 29th May is Security in Europe: the contribution of Europe’s diversity of religions, humanist and philosophical traditions to overcoming discrimination, violence and extremism.  The EU Parliament Vice President László Surján will be with us.

You’ll find more info and details of how to apply here ENORB Roundtable & Reception Brussels and the invitation is here ENORB Invitation to Brussels.

The round table has limited places, but the evening reception and workshops the following day will be able to accommodate many more.  Eurostar tickets are cheaper if you book well in advance . .

There’s a short piece ‘Making faith matter in the EU’ in the Economic and Social Research Council’s Britain in 2012 (I can’t find it online, but it’s at newsagents).

European Network on Religion and Belief 29th-30th May

LBFN is one of the groups bringing together a network of Europeans who are working across religious and belief boundaries.  The network has now been registered under the unsurprising name of European Network on Religion and Belief.

Vice-President of the European Parliament, Dr László Surján, has kindly invited us to the EU Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday 29th May at 3pm.

There will be a reception nearby that evening and an intercultural breakfast, workshops and lunch the next day so that groups from across Europe can get together and work out priorities for the first year or two.  A formal launch is planned for the autumn.

The title for discussion at the meeting on 29th May is a bit long-winded but highly topical – SECURITY: the contribution of Europe’s diversity of religions, humanist and philosophical traditions to overcoming discrimination, violence and extremism.

Let LBFN know if you’d like to apply for an invitation.  It promises to be a fascinating afternoon, with the opportunity of meeting multifaith/interconvictional groups and practitioners from across Europe.  Places are limited for the Parliamentary meeting, but there is more space at the subsequent events.

LBFN will be making one of several very short presentations at the EU Parliament – shall we add this topic to the agenda for our next LBFN meeting so that everyone’s views are shared?  Let me know your thoughts.