Reprinted with permission from Charisma News Service.

Risk management experts are encouraging mission organizations, churches and relief agencies to treat the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as "a watershed event" for implementing security measures. They urge ministries to be proactive in responding to a "new threat"--domestically and overseas--that is religiously motivated.

"Other than wartime, the danger to missionary organizations is higher from this threat than from any other threat in the past 30 years," said Bob Klamser, executive director of Crisis Consulting International (CCI), a Ventura, Calif.-based consultancy group that has worked with the largest mission groups since it started in 1985. "...They're at a greater risk. The concern is we're going to see the targeting of civilians and organizations working overseas in Muslim areas. It's not because they're Americans, but because they are Christians doing Christian work. It's a very different scenario."

Some ministries already are on high-alert mode. According to "The Virginian-Pilot," security has been beefed up at the Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va., site of its global ministry that broadcasts daily messages into Islamic nations. After U.S. State Department warnings, CBN employees in Jerusalem, Jakarta, Indonesia and elsewhere have been cautioned that they may be terrorist targets.

But CBN's president and chief operating officer Michael Little said the precautions are similar to those given to American corporations worldwide, and he downplayed any added threats to the organization founded by evangelist Pat Robertson.

But the newspaper said some counter-terrorism experts contend the religious undertones of the current conflict can't be taken lightly.

"If you were Osama bin Laden, would you see Robertson as a crusader against Islam? Of course you will," said Stephen Gale, a University of Pennsylvania professor who teaches a terrorism philosophy and methods course. "If they go after Robertson, it could be seen as a victory for Islam. It would be the will of Allah."

Still, Klamser believes the current level of preparation and security awareness among Christian groups is "markedly higher" than in 1985. "Is it as high as the corporate or diplomatic community? No," said Klamser, noting that CCI has participated in 45 missionary hostage cases. "...It's not unreasonable for any missionary organization to develop a basic security plan. It's not that burdensome or expensive. It's a very achievable goal."

In response to last month's tragedy, CCI has scheduled one-day "Global Briefings" in Ventura and Orlando, Fla., in the next two months that will feature a discussion of terrorism, motivations of terrorists and terrorist threat implications for Christian organizations. CCI also plans a November crisis management seminar, spotlighting security training as well as dealing with evacuations and hostage situations.

As far as congregations nationwide, Jeff Hanna, author of "Safe and Secure: The Alban Guide to Protecting Your Congregation," said "many churches are still doing business as usual."

"Security and safety in the church was important even before Sept. 11, and will continue to be so," said Hanna, who heads the Iowa-based GuideOne Insurance, a company that provides coverage to about 48,000 churches. "...Unfortunately, many churches wait until something tragic happens before they respond."

Hanna encourages the 250,000 churches nationwide to get educated, noting that his company's Web site, GuideOne Center has information on an "Emergency Preparation and Response Plan," a proactive security approach published soon after the attacks.

"I still believe the majority of churches are not prepared to protect against and respond to horrific events," he said.

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