The SOAR (Strengthening the security and resilience of at-risk religious sites and communities) project held the successful online EU level Network Dialogue event on 29th March, 2022, for network members, technical experts, and agreed stakeholders (e.g. EU Commission, national government representatives, and identified academic institution representatives).

The EU-funded project SOAR aims at increasing the awareness of, and capacity to prevent and mitigate physical and human security threats to places of worship through Security by Design (SBD). The concept of ‘Security by Design’ incorporates security features into the design and fabric of the building and its urban context. The project partners Enhancing Faith Institutions (EFI), the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, Finn Church Aid (FCA), and the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE) cooperate in this endeavour with an extensive network of professionals, including representatives from all majority and minority faiths practising within the EU. The project is supported by the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC).

This network dialogue meeting seeks to contribute to the development of bespoke SBD standards in relation to places of worship. This activity included consideration by working groups of whether standards or best practice guidance is required specifically for ensuring security by design for religious sites, whether planning for new construction, renovations, or security upgrades of existing facilities. The activity explored aspects such as:

  1. The architecture, windows, structure, landscaping, perimeter, entrances/exits and all other physical elements.
  2. Surveillance, the control room, access control, screening equipment, alarm, detection systems, information security, and security related technology.
  3. Sensitive design principles for religious sites shall be explored to balance the need to provide a secure environment while creating the atmosphere of self-reflection that manifests from the form, space, scale, materiality, and light, in spiritual spaces.

Also speaking at the event were representatives from Enhancing Faith Institutions (EFI), Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE), Joint Research Centre (JRC) European Commission, Dr. Csaba Szabo (Hungarian Ministry of the Interior), and Security by Design expert Hans Scheving (Bertelsen & Scheving).

Some key moments are shared below: