JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The leader of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was in the capital city Tuesday for a forum on Faith-Based Communities.
Acting Secretary Kevin K. McAleenan expressed frustration and concern over targeted violence against houses of worship and white supremacist attacks.
“I am concerned about the white supremacy and the extreme increases and the growing attacks, especially the ones we have seen on the houses of worship. I absolutely agree it is a problem and we need to work to address it,” said Acting Secretary McAleenan.
McAleenan also condemned the recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton that left at least 31 people dead. “We must address it with moral clarity, it is hate."
“Churches, Mosques, and other houses of worship are intended to be safe havens for your community," said Congressman Bennie Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security. “Unfortunately, those from Mississippi and the south know too well the horror that shakes a community when a house of worship is attack.”
Congressman Thompson, as well as religious local and law enforcement leaders, also participated in Tuesday’s forum.
“While we need to work to eradicate all forms of extremism, these at risk faith based centers and nonprofits need protection in the short term,” said Thomspon.
“We have to work closer with our law enforcement. That is imperative. Instead of reacting, we to be proactive,” added Associate Pastor Jarvis Ward of Sweet Rest Church of Christ.
Security leaders formed a subcommittee as part of Homeland Security's action plan to increase efforts to address domestic terrorism threat.
“The FBI has domestic terrorism arrests in the first three quarters of 2019 than all of 2018 combined,” said Thompson.
The subcommittee is expected to gather information and ideas and present an initial report to the Department of Homeland Security and then Congress.
“I am confident that the work of this subcommittee will help DHS secure and promote the resiliency of houses of worship,” said McAleenan.