ProSPeReS project participated in inauguration ceremony of the Church of St. Paisios, in Ioannina, Greece

On July 11, 2022, in continuation of the previous research activity, ProSPeReS was proudly present at the opening (inauguration) ceremony and visitation of the newly constructed (2020) Church of St. Paisios, in Ioannina, Greece.

The ceremony was attended by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Athens (and all of Greece) Ieronymos (Jerome), Metropolitan Maximos of Ioannina (head of ProSPeReS’ partners Holy Metropolis of Ioannina), and partners of the ProSPeReS project, in particular representatives of the Greek police and the KEMEA institute (Center for Security Studies).

In this church, within the framework of ProSPeReS’ Work Package (WP2) activities, a vulnerability assessment (VA) workshop was conducted in January 2022. Its main purpose was the identification of security gaps against terrorist attacks and the discussion of applicable measures for increasing its protection during high-profile religious events.

The purpose of the visit was to observe the setting in and around the Church, the security measures employed by the local stakeholders, and the general operations during such high-profile ceremonies. Regarding the security measures in place, it was very pleasing to see that some of them stemmed from the discussions held with the local stakeholders (incl. Holy Metropolis of Ioannina, Police, Fire Brigade, Civil Protection and Emergency Health Services) during January’s VA workshop and that ProSPeReS’ activities contributed to raising the protection the religious site.

Work on the project is ongoing. Stay tuned!

ProSPeReS 3rd project’s consortium meeting in Athenes

On May 24th -25th, 2022, the meeting of the Prosperes consortium partners took place in Athens, Greece. The meeting was organized by the University of Lodz and KEMEA (Center for Security Studies).

Partners associated in the international consortium presented and discussed the results of the work conducted so far and planned the next steps in the project. The outcomes of completed tasks of Workpackage 2 Vulnerability Assessment & Needs Analysis of religious sites were presented including the results of vulnerability assessment workshops of selected sites, additional case studies visits and the summary report that should be available soon at the project website. The experts from 6 countries of the European Union (Poland, Cyprus, Greece, Finland, the Netherlands, Slovakia) representing scientific environment, practitioners of state services and representatives of faith-based institutions discussed existing gaps in security systems, the ways of their correction and terrorist threats that may arise in places of worship. The consortium had the opportunity to learn more about the European Commission initiatives in the field of protection of places of worship i.e. about the other ISFP projects or publication related to the scope of Prosperes as well as to discuss the implementation of the project due to participation in the meeting the representatives of DG Home & Migration.

The meeting was a very good opportunity to present the current status of the works and planning future activities to be conducted in all work packages as it was the first face-to-face consortium meeting. The gaps&needs analysis phase is close to the conclusion, so currently the consortium will focus on tasks related on preparing the tailor-made security measures for religious sites and preparedness to CBRN protection. In the next phase the training materials including the VR appliance will be prepared and the training and exercises will take place.

Stay tuned. The work of the consortium is ongoing.

The workshop on challenges and good practice in protection of places of worship – 21.04.2022

On 21 April 2022, within the framework of the PoSPeReS project, a workshop devoted to the issue of protection the places of worship to terrorist threats was held via an online platform. The meeting was organized by the University of Lodza and , KEMEA. The meeting , was attended by representatives of religious communities from various EU countries as well as representatives of various services and institutions interested in the issues of security in a broad sense. During the workshop the results of the current work carried out in the framework of (WP2) Vulnerability Assessment & Needs Analysis of Religious sites, specifically the activities undertaken in the area of Activity 2.3 (Investigation of additional case studies in Europe- identification of common and distinctive challenges, risks, gaps, and good practices) were presented and discussed. The meeting was opened by the project coordinator Mr. Marcin Podogrocki from the University of Lodz, who briefly presented the agenda of the meeting and the planned order of speeches.

Then, the representative of the Orthodox Church in Greece expressed his Easter wishes to the participants of the consortium and thanked for their commitment to improving security at religious facilities. After presenting the introductory issues, Konstantinos Apostolou from Center for Security Studies (KAMEA) – leader of WP2 pointed out the key tasks of the conducted work in the field of Vulnerability Assessment & Needs Analysis of Religious sites and described the manner of proceeding with the use of diagnostic tool based on VAT/VAC by DG HOME (which was used, during the workshops at religious sites in Ioanina, Lodz and Warsaw). Next, Dr Rafał Batkowski, key expert from the University of Łódź, referred to the conducted visits religious facilities in StatesEU countries and introduced speakers representing expert institutions, services and religious communities from: Finland (Hellenberg International), Poland (WSB University, UL § Jewish Community, SO § Wroclaw Regional Police HQ, SGSP) and Greece (KEMEA), the Netherlands (DITSS).  During short presentations, results of case studies religious facilities such as Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Evangelic Churches, Synagogues and a Mosque Church were presented. The vulnerabilities in security systems and ways to address them were also demonstrated. After the break, the floor was taken by Koralia KONTOU from the European Commission (DG Home & Migration), who topresented key areas for future activity (including the creation of guides to improve awareness at places of worship, and future synergic actions as part of a broader campaign to improve security at places of worship).

The next speakers were experts who are retired officers of the Polish special forces (GROM formation), who pointed out the risk of using improvised explosive devices in religious facilities. During the speech, the consequences associated with the potential use of pyrotechnic in churches, and ways to neutralize and counteract this type of threat were presented.

The last session was a panel discussion led by Konstantinos Apostolou and Rafal Batkowski with invited representatives of faith-based organizations. The panelists were: Iman Atta – Director – Faith Matters, Leslaw Piszewski – President of the Jewish Community of Warsaw,  Juhani Korte – Parish Dean, Evangelic Church, Alan Wąsowski –  Archdioces of Lodz.  In addition, Mr. Alessandro Calgano – COMECE and Mr. Athinagoras Soupourtzis, Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Church – delivered their opinions on paper.   Panel members talked about their perceptions of the safety of worship and worshippers based on their personal experiences, taking into consideration distinct needs and challenges of each representative religious community. Participants had the opportunity to share experiences and ask questions. The discussion was successful and all questions were answered. The workshop ended with conclusions and comments that will be useful on the next stage of activities.

Panel for students – The Role of Interfaith Dialog in Limiting and Preventing Mass Atrocities

On 23 March 2022, as a  part of the 3rd day of the 18th Science Festival at WSB University, a panel for students was organised within  the planned events of  WP7  Awareness raising campaign of ProSPeReS project.

Objective of the panel peruse  the main goal of project which is to strengthen the security of religious sites. The panel was concentrated to:

  • Experience and best practices with radicalisation and violent extremism with focus on religious sites/public places with a high concentration of people,
  • Dialogue between religious sites operators, security units, managing, local and governmental authorities and the communities.

The lecture on the role of inter-religious dialogue in countering the threat of terrorism and mass atrocities was led by Adrian Siadkowski, PhD, prof. AWSB, with special participation by Piotr Cywiński, PhD – Director of the Auschwitz – Birkenau Concentration Camp Museum. In his interview, the Director drew attention to the parallels between past and present, the role of interreligious dialogue and the attitude of the Orthodox Church towards the current war in Ukraine triggered by Russia’s attack on a sovereign and independent country. We invite you to watch the interview.

Training of trainers for the protection of religious sites – Warsaw 14 March 2022

Polish National Security Association together with DG HOME of the European Commission, acting under the honorary patronage of the Head of the National Security Bureau, prepared trainings dedicated to the protection of religious places from terrorist attacks.

The first one, organized with the support of the Center for Crisis Protection and Management of the European Jewish Congress, was dedicated to the representatives of the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland. Dr. Rafał Batkowski, the representative of the University of Lodz and the key expert of the Prosperes Project, also took part in the meeting. During his short speech, Dr. Rafał Batkowski presented the assumptions of the project, the plan of undertakings within particular working groups and pointed out to the need of constant improvement of cooperation between European partners in order to improve the security of religious buildings. The presentation met with great appreciation among the audience.

The next training will be attended by representatives of the Catholic Church. Representatives of the Polish Police and State Protection Service will also participate in the trainings.

Vulnerability Assessment Workshop in Warsaw, Poland 10th-11th March 2022

The third Vulnerability Assessment Workshop in the frame of WP2 was organized in the premises of the Jewish Community of Warsaw.

Following the approach applied in the previous VA workshops here again to complete workshop the experts used developed diagnostic tool based on EU Vulnerability Assessment Tool/Checklist and EU Quick Guide. This time the place of worship characteristic to Judaism – the Warsaw Nożyk Synagogue – was subjected to vetting and specialist evaluation. The workshop was organized by the Jewish Community of Warsaw, KEMEA, University of Lodz and Warsaw Metropolitan Police Headquarters.

During the visit to the synagogue, representatives of different backgrounds, ranging from experts in the protection of public places, terrorist threats, explosives and CBRN threats, to policemen, firemen and representatives of the Jewish religious community, discussed security measures implemented in synagogues.

The experts’ deliberations focused primarily on the possibility of applying modern and effective methods and measures to protect such places of worship from terrorist attacks. The development of effective solutions to improve the level of security in the synagogue was facilitated by the exchange of knowledge and experience among the participants, who focused on the applicability of the developed methodology of vulnerability assessment in religious facilities. The discussion on reducing the synagogue’s vulnerability to terrorist attacks was largely based on information obtained from the staff of the visited building.

After analysing the state of security measures and identifying weaknesses in the facility’s infrastructure, the discussion proceeded to develop potential attack scenarios and determine their possible consequences for worshippers. The lively discussion was accompanied by the completion of special questionnaires, which were developed for the purpose of the diagnostic tool used.

In the end, the participants formulated conclusions and suggestions for further development of both the assessment tools used and the measures that can be implemented to improve security in the synagogue.

The vulnerability assessment workshops that took place in Ioannina (Greece), Lodz (Poland) and Warsaw (Poland) will conclude with a summary report that will serve as a basis for further work on improving the security of religious sites.

Workshops in the Archdiocese of Łódź

Vulnerability Assessment Workshop in Lodz, Poland 8th-9th March 2022

The second Vulnerability Assessment Workshop was organized by the Archdiocese of Lodz, University of Lodz and the Provincial Police Headquarters in Lodz on 8-9.03.2022 in the premises of the Archdiocese and facilitated by KEMEA within the framework of WP2. The physical workshop was preceded by an online workshop held on 3rd March where participants were introduced to the project vulnerability assessment methodology and tools based on EU Vulnerability Assessment Tool/Checklist and EU Quick Guide. In order to have a wider perspective participants came from different backgrounds, starting from experts on the protection of public places, terrorist threats, explosives or CBRN threats, police officers, fire-fighter and representatives of local church.

During the workshop the discussions among experts focused on modern methods and security measures to protect places of worship from terrorist attacks. This was facilitated by the exchange of knowledge and experience among the participants in focused on the applicability of vulnerability assessment methodology in religious sites. The discussion on reducing the vulnerability of religious facilities to terrorist attacks was based on information received from the staff of the visited church.

After the short introduction to the issues of the workshop and presentation of the main objectives and the scope of the planned work, participants conducted a site inspection at the main church of the Archdiocese of Lodz.

During the inspection of the site, the main focus was to identify possible gaps in the security system. The inspection focused, among other things, on the elements of the infrastructure located in the immediate vicinity of the building, the system of entrances and exits to the building, the CCTV and fire protection systems with it’s own security procedures. During a conversation with the parish priest, experts from various fields of security asked many detailed questions which were helpful at a later stage of the workshop.

In order to assess the state of security in the area of the church, a police drone was used and its operation was demonstrated by police officers from the Provincial Police Headquarters in Lodz. After the visit, a short meeting with the local media took place, where the experts presented the main assumptions and overarching objectives of the project.

The next stage of the work was a meeting in the seminary building, where we used the Vulnerability Assessment Tool to asses the site of concern. Based on identified vulnerabilities, the likelihood and consequences of various threats were analysed to estimate the level of risks. This was accompanied by a discussion on practices in protecting the facility of interest as well as other religious facilities before and during high profile events, the challenges involved, and potential measures that could enhance the protection of said religious facility. Finally, the participants formulated conclusions and suggestions applicable to further development of the assessment tools and improvement of the security in the Basilica.

The workshop in Lodz was conducted within activity on Vulnerability assessment – including in-site visits with workshops as part of WP2 – Vulnerability Assessment & Needs Analysis of Religious sites. The activity entails the conduct of on-site vulnerability assessments on selected religious sites proposed by the religious organisations participating in ProSPeReS. Three Vulnerability Assessment Workshops are scheduled in Ioannina (Greece), Lodz (Poland) and Warsaw (Poland). As the result the reports on the each workshop and the aggregate report will be prepared to collect feedback on the assessment methodology, identified common gaps, challenges and recommendations to the protection measures addressed to religious sites.

Online Conference on Interfaith Dialogue, ProSPeReS – Security Awareness Rising Campaign – 28th January 2022

International Conference “Challenges and Perspectives – Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Interfaith Dialogue” was organized by prof. AWSB Dr. Adrian Siadkowski and Dr. Karol Kujawa from (Academia WSB, Poland) on 28th January 2022 in virtual format. The founders of the project were represented by Dr. Rafal Batkowski from the consortium leader –  University of Lodz and the group of commentators was represented by the consortium representatives Ing. Pavel Truchly (ISEM Institute, Slovakia) and Dr. Timo Hellenberg (Hellenberg Inc., Finland).

The aims of this event were to promote the interfaith concept of the Prosperes project through bringing together academic scientists and researchers to exchange and share their experience and research results on all aspect of interfaith dialogue. Also, this event provided interdisciplinary platform for researchers to present and discuss the most recent trends, concerns, challenges and solutions related to communication between religious groups.

Scholars Elizabeth Drayson (University of Cambridge, UK), Ruth Bar-Sinai (David Yellin Academic College of Education, Israel), Fabian Brüder (Continental Reformed church, Germany), Agata S. Nalborczyk (University of Warsaw, Poland) and Hikmet Karčić (University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) discussed what the representatives of the three most important religions in Europe have in common.  This event sleeked also the opportunity to build bridges of trust and respect with neighbours of other faiths and to develop interreligious solidarity, understanding that can promote justice, peace and understanding. We hope that this event provided an inspiration to learn more about our common roots. May be the most effective means of combating religiously motivated violence. In case your unavailability have not allowed  you to participate in, here is the link where you can find the conference record.

This conference was a part of a Security Rising Awareness Campaign of the international project ProSPeReS (Protection System for Large Gatherings of People in Religious Sites) under the European Union Internal Security Fund – Police (ISFP) 2014-2020.

Vulnerability Assessment Workshop Ioannina 11-13 January 2022

For the purposes of ProSPeReS’ WP2, the first Vulnerability Assessment Workshop of the project was held in the city of Ioannina in Greece, between the 11th and 13th of January 2022. The workshop served an educational and research purpose. It focused on modern approaches and security measures for the protection of religious sites against terrorist attacks, the exchange of knowledge and expertise between participants, and finally the execution of a Vulnerability Assessment for the Church of Saint Paisios in Ioannina, based on the EU Vulnerability Assessment Tool- VAT (tool still in development) provided to the ProSPeReS consortium by DG HOME.

The workshop was organised by the Holy Metropolis of Ioannina, with the support and coordination of KEMEA and representatives of the Hellenic Police Headquarters (project partners). The rest of the participants consisted of representatives from the local Hellenic Police, Health Emergency Services, Civil Protection, Fire Brigade, and staff of the Holy Metropolis of Ioannina (operator of the Church).

During the three-day workshop, the current activities of the religious site of interest and security measures in place were identified, and various hypothetical scenarios of potential attacks were generated and discussed between the participants. Based on these scenarios, the probability and consequences of various threats were examined, to draw results of an estimated Risk Level for the religious site against each threat. During this process, the participants engaged in discussion about their current practices for protecting the site of interest, as well as other religious sites before and during high-profile events, the related challenges, and potential measures that could raise the protection of the aforementioned religious site.

Overall, the local participants showed great interest in the workshop and were very active during the brainstorming and discussion sessions, as well as during the execution of the overall vulnerability assessment, providing much valuable input. In general, the EU VAT methodology proved very effective in steering the vulnerability assessment process, and it provided a step-by-step approach which can be utilised by the local stakeholders in the future to make informed decisions, allocate their resources more efficiently and raise the protection of their religious sites. Additionally, the workshop provided an important opportunity for the local stakeholders to directly communicate and interact with each other, potentially enhancing their future cooperation.

While taking into consideration various limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the workshop was very successful. Moreover, the participants found it very useful, and they expressed their interest to be a part of other similar actions in the future.


WP2 – Vulnerability Assessment & Needs Analysis of Religious sites

A.2.2 Vulnerability assessment – including in-situ visits with workshops

Activity A.2.2. entails the conduct of on-site vulnerability assessments on selected religious sites proposed by the religious organisations participating in ProSPeReS. In light of this, three Vulnerability Assessment Workshops are scheduled in Ioannina (Greece), Lodz (Poland) and Warsaw (Poland). The aim the workshops is to identify security gaps in religious sites and propose security measures to mitigate them, in an effort to raise the protection of the sites against potential terrorist attacks. To achieve this, the workshops rely on the participation of local stakeholders such as the selected sites’ managing body, law enforcement agencies, first responders and municipality that are involved in the protection of the site from a security and safety perspective.