Several Catholic churches in Europe were reportedly set on fire in the days before Christmas, raising concerns of vandalism motivated by an opposition to Christianity.
The Observatory on the Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe reported that three churches were burned in Austria on Dec. 23, while a Nativity scene was burned at a church in France on December 18.
In the small Austrian town of Amstetten, three churches were set aflame, with one being severely damaged. The alleged suspect – a young man – was interrogated by police, but appeared to be confused and did not provide a motive.
Anti-Christian sentiments have not been ruled out as a possible motive for the arson, since only churches in the area were set on fire.
In France, a Nativity scene at the Church of Barby in Savoy was set on fire between 7 and 8 p.m. on the night of Dec.18. There were no indications that the fire was accidental.
The parish sacristan told reporters it was not the first time the church has been attacked. In previous years the church’s door was damaged, stained glass windows were broken and numerous books were burned.
Parents and children of the parish set up a new Nativity scene to replace the one that was destroyed.