Attack on Temples Where Christians Are Persecuted. Photo: ACN

Hate Crimes on The Rise Against Christians in Europe

On November 16, the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDAC) published its Annual Report on the occasion of International Tolerance Day. The Report points out that hate crimes against Christians increased. In 2022 alone, 748 hate crimes were committed.

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(ZENIT News / Viena, 21.11.2023).- The Observatory was founded in 2010, with headquarters in Vienna, Austria. It registers cases of religious persecution and restrictions to fundamental liberties in crimes motivated by hatred of Christians throughout Europe.

The latest Report of OIDAC Europe registered an increase of 44% of hate crimes against Christians, during the last year. Notable are the arson attacks on churches, which increased by 75% between 2021 and 2022. The Observatory noted that the majority of the crimes stem from extremist motivations and were directed especially against Christians who expressed their traditional cosmovision, even suffering legal discrimination in countries that consider themselves defenders of freedom.

Although Christians do not suffer persecution as they do in the Middle East or in Nicaragua, the aggressions have worsened over the last decade. For example, OIDAC verified 325 cases in 2018 against Christians in Europe, and over 500 in 2021. They have now grown to 748.

Madeleine Enzlberger, Executive Director of the Observatory in 2021, commented that “many crimes were committed, motivated by hatred, against churches in which people were attacked, churches destroyed, Masses interrupted, and other such things. And here, really, I’d say, is where the whole world should draw the line. They are increasingly faced with more challenges.”

In 2022, OIDAC documented 748 hate crimes against Christians in 30 different countries: arson attacks, graffiti, profanations, robberies in churches and institutions, as well as physical aggression, insults and threats to believers. The Report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reckons there were 792 hate crimes against Christians in 34 countries, classified as such in its Report published on November 16. The OSCE reports that Christians are the religious group most attacked after Jewish believers. Two tendencies are noted in the aggressions: arson attacks, which increased from 60 in 2021 to 105 in 2022, and growth of hate crimes perpetrated by radicalized members of ideological, political or religious groups, guided by clearly anti-Christians positions.

Anja Hoffmann, current director of OIDAC Europe, highlights the increase in vandalism motivated by extremism, which has greater acceptance by society of attacks on churches. “Whereas in the past the motives behind vandalism or profanation of churches continued being to a great extent not very clear, seen now increasingly are perpetrators leaving messages on the social networks, which reveal an extremist motive or even claim authorship with pride of the crimes committed.”

The OIDAC Report also reflects other forms of discrimination against Christians: loss of jobs for expressing their faith, suspension or criminal proceedings for expressing one’s non-violent religious position, attacks or accusations of alleged “hate speech,” sometimes simply for adhering to the traditional teachings of their Churches. Known is the firing of Oxford Professors Ben Dybowski and Joshua Sutcliffe, and the chaplain of Trent College, the Reverend Barnard Randall, in Derbyshire, England.

Regina Polak, the OSCE Representative for the Fight against Racism, Xenophobia and Discrimination, expressed her concern over the growing number of cases, given that  her Department also investigates intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions: “The growing number of anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe , denounced by the OIDAC, is profoundly worrying. It is absolutely necessary to create awareness about this problem, both in the government as well as in society, and to implement policy measures to address it and fight it with determination.”

Anja Hoffmann said: “The criminalization of expressions of traditional religious teachings, which do not incite to violence or hatred, such as ‘hate speech,’ is dangerous at several levels: it stigmatizes legitimate convictions related to conscience and, at the same time, weakens the gravity of real hate speech.” Of use is the reflection that to “silence public Christian voices undermines the plurality of Western democratic societies and makes freedom of expression essentially impossible.”

There are legal restrictions in the United Kingdom to freedom of religion and assembly with draft laws , such as the so-called “buffer zones,” which criminalize prayer and religious manifestation in front of abortion clinics. Shocking was Isabel Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest, interrogated by the police when she was standing in silence in a “buffer zone” and investigated in case she was “praying in her mind.”

OIDAC Europe observed violation of parents’ right to educate their children in keeping with their religious beliefs. Such are the limitations to freedom of conscience, which do away with conscience clauses in medical laws, putting the medical staff in a vulnerable position when refusing to take part in certain practices for reasons of conscience, be it abortion or euthanasia, turning the  civil authority into an oppressor of the freedom of conscience of these citizens.

“When Christians are obliged to choose between their ethical values and their professions, society will face a difficult future,” said Anja Hoffmann. ”By creating awareness and providing an in-depth analysis of the human rights of these events, OIDAC Europe hopes to contribute to safeguarding the religious freedom of Christians and of all believers throughout Europe.”

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Rafael Llanes

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