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UK ministers warned that clerical collars increase risk of attack


Priests and pastors in Britain have been warned not to wear clerical collars when they are not working because of the danger of being attacked.

"We’re not alarmists but we’re telling the clergy not to risk attack by motivated offenders by wearing their [clerical] collars when they’re off duty, visiting friends, shopping at the local supermarket, unless they have someone who would help them in an emergency," said Nick Tolson, director of National Churchwatch, an independent group advising clergy about security.

A recent report by National Churchwatch said the fact that priests are clearly identifiable away from their home or place of work increases the risk of them being attacked.  Five clerics have been murdered in England and Wales since 1996, the report noted.

A 2001 academic study estimated that clergy are more at risk from violence than members of other professional groups.  It found that 12 percent of clergy had suffered from physical violence, and that 70 percent had experienced some other form of violence such as swearing, spitting, shouting and name calling.

Tolson said that in a study of 90 clergy in 2006, he found that almost half had encountered at least one violent incident in the preceding twelve months.

However, the Rev. David Houlding of St Paul’s Cathedral in London said he felt safer wearing his clerical collar.

"There is still an air of respect to it," Houlding was quoted by the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London as saying.  "Most of the time I wear it every day.  It’s my uniform.  [Without it] we’d lose our presence in the community and our witness."

Ecumenical News International