Prime Minister announces funding for security upgrades to places of worship
But Anglican minister Michael Jensen says churches should let synagogues and mosques get funding first
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced $55 million in community grants to upgrade security at places of worship around Australia.
Addressing the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce in Melbourne, Morrison said the terrorist attack in New Zealand has accelerated a plan to expand the Government’s Safer Communities Fund, which will now include religious schools, places of worship and places of religious assembly.
The safer community fund makes grants available from $50,000 to $1.5 million to implement safety enhancements including CCTV, lighting, fencing, bollards, alarms, security systems and public address systems.
The grants had previously been available to schools, preschools and community organisation but in his speech, Morrison said the new funding would give priority to places of worship.
“I so wish we didn’t need this,” Morrison said. “I believe in religious freedom, and it that has to start with the right to worship and meet safely without fear of violence.”
“We have to be careful in making our church look like a castle … it perpetuates the problem.”
Christian commentator and minister of a local Anglican parish in Sydney’s east, Michael Jensen, says he doesn’t think there is a direct threat to Christian churches in Australia.
“I don’t think that’s naivety,” Jenson tells Eternity.
“We have to be careful in making our church look like a castle. It actually gives the impression that we are under siege, and I don’t think we’re under siege. And I think it perpetuates the problem.”
Jensen says he has noticed that synagogues in Eastern Sydney – whose suburbs including Vaucluse, Randwick, Bondi and Double Bay, and are home to almost two-thirds of Sydney’s Jewish population – have visibly increased their security, which he believes is much more necessary than it is for churches.
“Attacks on synagogues and mosques in Australia are on the increase and are far more prevalent than, I think, ordinary Australians know.
“I would want to give preference to mosques and synagogues to take up that money, not churches in the first instance. I think they’re much more under threat than we are.”
A report released last year by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry found a 60 per cent rise in anti-Semitic incidents across Australia in 2018, citing 156 attacks on Jewish community groups including synagogues and Jewish schools that amounted to assault, abuse, vandalism and graffiti.