This week, Lisburn and Castlereagh Council passed a motion highlighting CARE NI's research on attacks on places of worship in Northern Ireland.
The motion called for steps to be taken to help prevent such attacks from taking place and to support those who are impacted across Northern Ireland.
Parties right across the political spectrum on the council supported the motion.
The motion highlighted CARE NI's recent research which showed the significant scale of attacks on places of worship in NI.
The motion stated:
"Council notes recently published research from charity CARE NI finding that over 600 attacks have been recorded on places of worship in Northern Ireland between 2014 and 2019. 60 of these attacks were recorded in the Lisburn and Castlereagh Council area.
Council unreservedly condemns all attacks on places of worship in Northern Ireland regardless of their religion or denomination and upholds the important human right for individuals to be free to worship and live out their faith in this society.
Council notes the operation of the Places of Worship Security Scheme in England and Wales and writes to the Department of Communities calling for consideration to be given to the introduction of a similar scheme in Northern Ireland.
Council calls on Council officers to consider what actions can be taken at Council level to provide advice and support to places of worship in terms of their security and to support places of worship which have been attacked."
Places of worship must be protected
Following a Freedom of Information request to the PSNI, CARE NI recently found that since 2014/15, there have been 601 crimes recorded as criminal damage to religious buildings, churchyards or cemeteries in Northern Ireland across the 11 policing districts.
On average this means in the last five years an attack on a place of worship has taken place approximately every three days. Belfast City has seen the most, with 173 attacks, more than a quarter of the total number.
We are calling for a Places of Worship: Protective Security Funding Scheme to be set up, mirroring a similar scheme available in England and Wales. The fund provides financial resources so places of worship can buy security measures such as CCTV, fencing and lighting.
We very much welcome this motion by Lisburn and Castlereagh Council and hope that other councils may follow suit. Action on this is urgently needed.