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ISIS urges home grown lone wolf terrorists to attack US churches

ISIS urges home grown lone wolf terrorists to attack US churches

NYC police stand guard outside St Patrick's Cathedral during midnight mass back in Dec. 25, 2014.
NYC police stand guard outside St Patrick’s Cathedral during midnight mass back in Dec. 25, 2014.

Last Saturday we reported that combined federal and state police had foiled a terror plot on Federation Square in Melbourne Australia on 23 DEC by arresting 7 suspects in the plot. We also reported that the Kent police department in the UK was establishing patrols of specialist armed officers to protect the area around Canterbury Cathedral. The Tunisian man who drove a truck into a Christmas market outside of a local well-known church in Berlin Germany on Monday, 19 DEC, was claimed by ISIS as one of their soldiers. He killed 12 and injured 48 with his heinous act. A video was later released where the driver, Anis Amri, 24, swore allegiance to ISIS. He was later killed in a gun battle with young police officers in Milan Italy after taking a train across France.

US federal authorities have issued warnings to local law enforcement throughout the US as ISIS has published lists of thousands of churches and encouraged lone wolf jihadists to attack them with the coming of the Christian New Year. The messages were posted to the ISIS social media site Secrets of Jihadis. Signed by one Abu Marya al-Iraqi, the message in Arabic said that ISIS hoped lone wolf jihadists would “turn the Christian New Year into a bloody horror movie.” The list of churches in all 50 states was gathered from information available on the web. Another posted message went further and encouraged “the sons of Islam” to make attacks on just about anywhere that people might be gathered; markets, coffee shops, hotels and street activities.

A spokesman for the FBI, Andrew Ames, stated, “As part of the continuous dialogue with our law enforcement partners, the FBI routinely shares information about potential threats to better enable law enforcement to protect the communities they serve.” He also said that citizens were advised to maintain awareness of their surroundings and report suspicious activity.

The videos were posted on 22 DEC and some folks are in hopes that the references to the Christian New Year was actually Christmas, as many churches were well attended on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But attacks on revelers on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day cannot be ruled out.

What extra precautions has your parish taken lately to protect those attending services and activities at your building?

The main image is from conservativepost.com. The second image is from courtesy of Reuters/Carlo Allegri. The video is from USA Today. Information was gathered from here, here & here.

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Peter Faass

It's an interesting question you pose about what extra precautions have we taken to protect those attending services.

After the Pulse night club attack we had a lot of social media coverage on a special memorial service we were holding the following Sunday. There were some negative comments that alarmed me, so I asked the local police department to station an officer outside the church during that service, which they did. I have also asked for extra police patrols during a couple of same-sex weddings that I knew people in the greater community were aware of. We are fortunate as the local police department has prided itself in having good relations with religious institutions in the city and they are amenable - based on available officers - to complying with these requests. Many of the local synagogues hire police officers to provide security during Shabbat and High Holy Day services, but the would be financially prohibitive for us.

I also keep the police department telephone number on a post-it note on my kneeler . . . just in case.

I have also instructed my ushers that if anything disruptive happens during a service to just call 911 without thinking twice about it. Better a false alarm than a tragedy. The police agree with this approach.

I suppose we could engage in the anti-terrorist training that many schools have since the rise in shootings . . . but what message will this send out to the congregation; we are concerned about your safety or this is a dangerous place?

The words from the Song of Zechariah keep ringing in my head as I think about tis question, "Free to worship him without fear." What does that mean for us and how we conduct our worship and church life, I think is the bigger question.

I'd be curious to hear other responses.

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