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Assessing the Violent Targeting of Faith-Based Organizations

By Dr. Joshua Sinai

Known as faith-based organizations (FBOs), religious institutions are intended to serve as physical and spiritual sanctuaries and places of peaceful inner reflection from “all the evil” that occurs in the outside world. But for many reasons, however, such as their unwanted role as provocative religious symbols in highly contentious and polarizing political conflicts and vulnerabilities such as minimal security defenses against potential violent assailants, FBOs have recently become major targets for conducting mass killings by three types of attackers: ideologically driven terrorists, psychologically driven active shooters, as well as, on occasion, workplace violence-related attackers.

Violence against FBO facilities and their congregants has long been rampant around the world, particularly in high-conflict regions such as South Asia (particularly Iraq and Pakistan) and the Middle East (particularly in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria). While such high frequency attacks against FBO have not reached America, recent high visibility attacks against FBOs in Charlottesville, SC, on June 17, 2015 (9 killed, one wounded), in Sutherland Spring, TX, on November 5, 2017 (26 killed, 20 wounded), and Pittsburgh, PA, on October 27, 2018 (11 killed, six wounded), demonstrate the severity of the escalating threat in America, as well.

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