INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Central Indiana faith leaders are equipped with new information to protect their congregations.
On Sunday, approximately 800 worshipers from across the city gathered at the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation to learn lifesaving lessons from the OneCOP initiative.
The images are becoming far too common: active shooters targeting mosques, synagogues and churches. These places of worship are soft targets to home grown terrorists.
“It’s no longer, 'Oh my gosh, this is the first time this has happened.' It’s, Oh my God, another incident like this,'” said Ryan Yarrell, an organizer with OneCOP.
Yarrell understands you may not be able to stop the violence, but you can be prepared for it.
“Making sure it doesn’t happen here,” Yarrell added.
The OneCOP initiative brings law enforcement and congregations together to begin the conversation.
According to the OneCOP website:
The “One Congregation One Precinct” (OneCOP) initiative, MFI’s signature program, facilitates positive, ongoing partnerships between local law enforcement agencies and diverse congregations of every faith tradition. This includes organizing various crime and violence prevention/solving efforts, hosting public safety briefings, providing cultural and sensitivity trainings, conducting officer appreciation events, holding community safety workshops, and hosting forums focused on bettering the relationship between cops and citizens.
“Prevent crime, increase community relations between law enforcement in our current climate and of course, to really make sure people know each other,” said Yarrell.
Their program asks congregations what they would do if they encountered an active shooter.
“Something that I thought never in my lifetime that I would see, but here we are,” said Eric Garnes of Overcoming Church located in Indianapolis.
Rabbi Brett Krichiver of Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation added, “For the last several years, we’ve increased that security because we know that we are a target. I don’t want that to be the only thing we think about when we come here to pray.”
The crowd of worshipers listened closely to the 911 call from Columbine, then discussed what actions could have saved lives.
“It was a little intense to hear one of the agents talk about every time you walk into a room, be aware of the exits, be aware of people who might look suspicious,” said Krichiver, “It’s critical we have this level of preparedness and also tools to help us maintain that sanctity of space.”
OneCOP focuses on avoid, deny and defend. That’s to avoid the conflict, deny access to your location and be prepared to defend yourself, if necessary.
“To be aware of what’s happening, to watch certain movements, to listen, to be aware of everything around you,” said Garnes.
This program gives congregations the tools they hope they never have to use.
“Indianapolis is very lucky to have the kind of relationships we have with Muslim, Christian leaders, Buddhists, Sikh, Hindu leaders and I think that’s our great strength as well. We’re there for each other,” said Krichiver.
So far in 2019, the FBI has arrested 66 people for domestic terrorism threats.
If you would like to learn more about OneCOP to bring a training program to your congregation, click here to visit their website.