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  • Writer's pictureKirsi TOPPARI

What are the current challenges and threats to places of worship in Finland and Europe?

Text by Kirsi Toppari, Senior Advisor, Cybersecurity, Hellenberg International



The security of churches and other places of worship has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years.

Following attacks on churches and other places of worship, many people are now asking what measures are being taken to protect these places of worship from potential threats?


One of the most pressing challenges for churches and other places of worship is to prepare for the growing threat of physical attack. All too often media headlines such as "Multiple victims in Sydney church stabbings", "Gun attack on Catholic church in Istanbul", "Tragic Islamic attack in Congo" describe attacks on places we have come to trust for safety and peace.


Challenges and threats to religious sites may include:

  • Attacks motivated by extremist ideologies

  • Hate crimes such as vandalism, arson and other violent threats. These may be motivated by religious, racial or other prejudices.

  • Changes in immigration policy and the rise of anti-immigration.

  • Pandemics

  • Economic challenges, membership

  • The intensified confrontation in the world

  • War


Churches and other places of worship have recognised the increased risks and have taken steps to improve security. The aim is to constantly improve security without jeopardising the openness of churches and other places of worship by maintaining a balance between security measures and preserving the open nature of PW. Overall, the challenge of maintaining security while promoting freedom of worship remains a complex issue for places of worship.


To meet these challenges, churches and other places of worship are taking various measures to improve security.

Preparedness measures include increasing the number of security staff, installing surveillance cameras and other monitoring equipment, screening bags and using metal detectors, and developing emergency plans that outline procedures for responding to different types of threats or emergencies.

Much has already been done, but continued preparedness is needed to cope with changing threats.


Does the harassment indicate a future attack?

There is no clear correlation between harassment or other disruptive religious activities and the likelihood of a future attack on a place of worship. While it is possible that harassment or other disruptive activities could be a precursor to an attack, it's important to recognise that these incidents can also be motivated by a range of factors, such as intolerance or prejudice, rather than a desire to carry out violence.


Furthermore, all attacks on places of worship are not preceded by harassment or other disruptive activity. Some attacks are carried out without warning or may be the result of the actions of a lone individual.

It is important to note that every situation is unique, and the best way to prevent future attacks on places of worship is to remain vigilant, report suspicious activity to the authorities, and work to promote mutual respect and understanding between different religious groups.


However, any kind of harassment or disturbing activity in the worship service must be taken seriously and investigated by the authorities. These incidents can cause fear and anxiety among community members and damage the trust and mutual respect necessary for peaceful coexistence.

Therefore, churches and other places of worship must remain vigilant and regularly review and update their security measures to ensure they are adequately protected against physical attacks.


The risk of possible bomb attacks or attacks involving dangerous chemicals has been identified.

Churches and other places of worship are aware of the potential for bomb attacks or attacks with dangerous chemicals and have taken steps to prepare and protect themselves.

Some of the measures that churches and other places of worship may take to guard against these types of attacks include:

  • Conducting risk assessments

  • Physical security measures such as reinforced doors, blast-resistant windows, or bollards to protect against bomb attacks.

  • Emergency plans

  • Training and education

  • Collaboration with authorities


It's important to note that the specific measures that churches and other places of worship take to prepare for bomb attacks or attacks with dangerous chemicals will vary depending on factors such as the size of the church, its location, and the perceived level of threat. 

Churches and PW´s in Finland and Europe are well prepared and aware of the possibility of this type of attack and are constantly improving their ability to protect themselves and their communities.


Increased interest of cybercriminals.

One emerging trend is that churches and other places of worship may be under digital attack. Cyber security threats have become more common in recent years and churches and other places of worship are not immune. It is important to note that digital attacks can take many forms and can target different parts of a church's operations, such as personal data held by the church, a website, an online service or internal systems.  


It is therefore important that churches and other places of worship remain vigilant and regularly review and update their cyber security measures to ensure that their digital assets are adequately protected against cyber attacks. To meet this challenge, churches and other places of worship should put in place cybersecurity measures and define the level of digital security to be achieved. 


How to avoid falling victim to a ransomware attack?

A risk analysis will ensure a smooth start and investment in the right measures, such as situational awareness, regular security assessments, training of staff and volunteers, incident response plans and assessment of the adequacy of the software in place.


In conclusion

Churches and other places of worship are taking a range of measures to protect themselves against potential threats. While no measure can guarantee complete safety, these efforts represent an important step in safeguarding these important religious and cultural institutions. 


By remaining vigilant and taking proactive steps to improve their security, churches and other places of worship can help ensure that they remain safe and welcoming spaces for all who wish to visit them.





ProSPeReS project, which aims to increase the level of protection in places of worship with keeping the balance between security measures and preservation of the open nature of religious sites.


Visit the site https://prosperes.eu/

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