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LAKE FOREST, CALIFORNIA (ANS) -- A pastor shot to death during a Sunday morning service, a policeman and two soldiers killed in Northern Ireland, a shooting rampage that killed ten in Alabama, and 15 murdered by a disgruntled student in Germany.
Random acts of violence affecting and forever changing the lives of those around the victims who have been gunned down in cold blood, all pointing to the fact we live in a fallen world and that we should all be prepared for the inexplicable.
Security Expert Jeff Hawkins
"From a moral and spiritual point of view, I have had Pastors tell me that it is their obligation, as 'Shepherds,' to protect their 'Flocks.' From a legal point of view, although we havenít seen it yet in the Christian community, other organizations have been sued when an incident occurs and someone is hurt or injured for lack of security or negligent security," Hawkins told ASSIST News.
"There is an obligation to provide a safe environment and by law employers must do so for their staff. We have seen multi-million dollar judgments against organizations for not providing adequate security," Hawkins said.
Formerly chief security officer for a large international Christian ministry, Hawkins is a senior public safety and security professional with more than 27 years experience working for profit, not-for-profit and government organizations locally, nationally and around the world.
Hawkins is a Certified Institutional Protection Manager (CIPM) and a Certified Institutional Protection Instructor (CIPI). He currently serves on the U.S. State Department Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) and the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS International) Leadership, the worldís largest organization of security professionals.
A Chicago native and a graduate of the Chicago Police Academy, Elmhurst College (B.A Ė Business Administration), and National-Louis University (M.S Ė Management), Hawkins has more than 1,000 hours of post-graduate training in security, law enforcement and emergency management with such specialty agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and counter terrorism agencies in Israel.
Hawkins has worked with White House Advance Teams under Presidents Reagan and Clinton, conducted investigations with the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and coordinated protection details for politicians and foreign dignitaries with the Diplomat Security Service (DSS), the U.S. Secret Service and foreign security agencies.
ANS wanted to know what kinds of things should Christian groups take into account when considering security options? What questions should they be asking themselves and experts like him?
"They need to do three things, in this order. One, accept the fact that they may be the victim of a crime or violent act, either from outside or even inside their own organization," he said.
"Second, once they have adopted that mindset, conduct a Risk Assessment, whether an organization like the Christian Security Network conducts it or they use our material to do it themselves, the Risk Assessment should give them a basis to develop a short term and long term plan addressing security and emergency plans.
"Third, donít wait on starting the plan -- get help from us, from local law enforcement, fire departments and emergency services, as well as their insurance carriers," Hawkins said.
I asked Hawkins what sort of measures and precautions are available to these groups? How easily available are these things and how cost effective are they?
"The Christian Security Network offers a free weekly newsletter and free webinars to get churches, schools, ministries and missionaries started! We also offer a wide variety of services from education and training to risk assessments and consulting. We offer on-line subscription plans that offer training articles, webinars, forums to communicate to other churches and Christian organizations, and a host of other benefits. Security is not a one time 'thing,' it is not a 'product' -- it should be an on-going part of the organization, just like any other Ministry, except geared towards security, safety and emergency planning and response."
Hawkins continued: "Crimes happen almost every day against Christian organizations, however most do not make national headlines.
"The Christian Security Network has tracked over 140 incidents in more than 31 states in 2009 alone. We post recent events on the front page of our website so people can see the types of incidents that occur in all areas.
"Ironically while everyone was focused on the tragic shooting of the Pastor in Illinois, there were three other incidents that day in different parts of the country, two arsons of churches (one in South Carolina and one in Virginia) and one incident where a man in California went to shoot his Pastor but was apprehended by police before he could carry out the plot -- we almost had two Pastors killed in one day," Hawkins said.
I asked Hawkins what are some instances where random acts of violence have been prevented by wise and cautious planning? What made the difference?
"Church security professionals tell us incidents on a regular basis of crimes they prevent and lives they save by having the proper measures in place.
"One Christian security professional related to me an incident in a large church where they were protecting a Pastor and during the altar call, at the end of the service, they spotted a man in line waiting to see the Pastor and noted something peculiar about him. So they asked him to step out of line and took him to a secure room where they discovered he had two machetes strapped to his back. He said the devil told him to cut the Pastorís head off. He was taken into custody and turned over to police without incident," Hawkins said.
What does the need for these kinds of groups to think along these lines say about our society?
"What the Bible has been telling us all along -- we live in a fallen world, there is evil present all around us, and we must do everything we can to combat it and stand firm for the Lord," said Hawkins.
I asked Hawkins what he would say to those groups who say they will "just trust in the Lord" that all will work out well if they are ever attacked?
"The Bible does not tell us to stand idle in the face of evil, it tells us to foresee danger and plan ahead. If that type of attitude is taken, than we do not need police, fire fighters, paramedics or the military -- all who protect us every day against danger and evil. The Bible says God gave to each their own spiritual gifts -- we believe ours is to protect the family of believers," he said.
I also asked Hawkins what he would you say to those groups who say that talk of increased security measures is pandering to fear?
"First, look at the statistics -- no one is making up these reports of arson, burglary, armed robbery and violence against Christian organizations, God wants us to be good stewards of what He has given us and we need to protect what we invest into His church.
"Second, the very definition of 'security' is to be free of anxiety or worry of threats; by establishing security in the church people should be free of worry and concentrate on why they are there, to praise and worship the Lord. They canít do that if they are worried about their child in daycare or is someone breaking into their car in the parking lot, or who is walking in the back door of the church. Security brings peace," he said.
"In my 28-plus years in law enforcement and public safety, almost every crime victim I have every dealt with says the same thing 'I didnít think it could happen to me' or 'Things like this just donít happen here' -- God gave us the Holy Spirit to help and guide us, and people just donít listen. Most victims say 'I had a little voice inside that just telling me something wasnít right, but I didnít listen.Ö' When God talks to you, you should listen....it has saved my life more than once," Hawkins said.
"There is no tomorrow, safety and peopleís lives are too important to put off -- act today."
|** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael has traveled to Albania and the former Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia, Israel,and Canada. He has reported for ANS from Jordan, China, Russia, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International.|