The report also lamented stereotypes and prejudices in public discussion about religion, such as the instantaneous and incorrect labeling of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik as a fundamentalist Christian.
The observatory also noted positive developments.
“We were pleased to note that many who have focused exclusively on third world countries that demonstrated outright persecution, are beginning to notice that the marginalization and restriction of rights and freedoms of Christians in Europe are also of concern and deserves our attention,” Kugler said in the report’s introduction.
Among the highlights for 2011 were a resolution in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that encouraged public debate on anti-Christian issues and a reassessment of legislation with the potential for negative effects on Christians.
Another was the European Court of Human Rights to overturn a court decision against crucifixes in state school classrooms in Italy.
In January 2012, the Spanish government stopped a compulsory education class which drew objections from 55,000 parents, including many Christians.
The observatory stressed the religious freedom rights of both individuals and religious communities. Religion is a “valuable asset” for society that encourages healthy life and contributions to the common good, it said.
Bishop Veres encouraged religious believers to live their faith.
“(B)elieving in God must not be perceived as a fault or sign of weakness,” he said. “Living and witnessing to one’s own religious creed in respect for the freedom and sensitivity of others can only be beneficial for everyone, believers or non-believers, Christians or non-Christians.”
The bishops of Europe support those whose rights are not respected. Religious freedom is a “valuable good” that continues as a “pillar of peace on our continent,” the bishop said.