Sunday, December 21, 2003

Open Targets

The Archbishop of Canterbury might be better employed worrying about the physical security of his flock this Christmas than in assuaging what he perceives to be Muslim sensitivities. Church attacks are a favoured tactic of Islamic militants in the Philippines, Indonesia and the Indian subcontinent. The authorities seem convinced that some form of outrage is planned for the UK, churches offer the softest targets – and what could be more richly symbolic than a Christmas Eve bomb at, say, Canterbury or St. Paul’s ? The very diversity of the congregations at London churches means that any form of profiling would be pointless, and the entire congregation would have to be searched on entrance to provide meaningful security.

I attend Easter Mass each year at a Catholic church (in a part of London with a large ethnic minority population, gangs of whose young people stalk the High Street each Sunday. The ethnic minority in question being Korean, the gangs are usually playing guitars, singing hymns, and inviting passers-by to find Jesus at a local church. But I digress.) The congregation is incredibly mixed – English, Irish, Polish, Filipino, Chinese, Indian, Italian, African, Brazilian (yet the Mass unites every race in a shared culture. What was that about ‘Westerners’, Archbishop ?). No way could door security play ‘spot the terrorist’.

I’m not saying it’s likely, let alone a certainty. But it’s easy to do and has, from an Al-Quaeda perspective, great symbolic value. I hope the leaders of all Churches, and our security forces, haven’t overlooked this possibility.