Hate crimes against Christians on the rise in Europe, report says

In March 2022, these Stations of the Cross in the diocese of Augsburg, southern Germany, were vandalized. In March 2022, these Stations of the Cross in the diocese of Augsburg, southern Germany, were vandalized. | CNA Deutsch

Hate crimes against Christians are on the rise in Europe, according to a new report published this week.

The Observatory for the Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians (OIDAC) in Europe documented more than 500 anti-Christian hate crimes — including four homicides — in Europe in 2021.

Since 2005, the Vienna-based organization has tracked cases of discrimination and other hate crimes against Christians. These range from vandalism to homicide. The data collected is on public record, and anyone can check the figures and see the source of the incidents. The report denounced a “chilling effect among victims” and a lack of media coverage.

The new report runs 65 pages long [PDF] and is filled with case histories as well as two expert commentaries and a testimony. The report also provides some final recommendations.

According to the new figures, in 2021, OIDAC documented anti-Christian hate crimes in 19 European countries. There were 14 cases of physical assault, and four Christians were murdered.

Out of 500 anti-Christian hate crimes documented in 2021, approximately 300 were acts of vandalism, such as graffiti, damage to property, and desecration. There were about 80 cases of theft — ranging from religious objects and consecrated hosts to church equipment.

Beyond that, there were approximately 60 arson attacks or cases of intended arson.

Underpinning these numbers is the concern that hate crimes against Christians may often be downplayed or overlooked, while it is common to acknowledge cases of Islamophobia or anti-Semitism.

Part of the problem, the report noted, lies in one typical objection that says: “Christians cannot be discriminated against in Europe because they are in the majority.”

On this question, the report noted that “while minorities can be more vulnerable to discrimination, it is a wrong and unsubstantiated belief that majority groups cannot be discriminated against, as history shows.”

“Rather than numbers, it depends on which groups have more power to shape the political discourse, to discriminate, insult, or attack a certain group without facing the consequences. At the same time, it is important to differentiate between cultural Christianity, which is still a majority in Europe, from those practicing Christians.“

The report also wrote about a lack of media coverage and awareness stemming from self-censorship. This was identified in five areas of life: education, the workplace, the public sphere, private social interactions, and on media platforms.

Among the stories that did not grab the wider media headlines were attacks against two public Catholic processions in France: one by an extremist left-wing group of activists on May 13 and another in December by a group of radical Islamists.

In August 2021, a Christian preacher was questioned by U.K. police for reading the Bible out loud, in a calm tone, outside a railway station in London. It was one of several cases of street preachers running afoul of authorities in public streets for preaching Christian values.

According to the report, these incidents happen because “ambiguously-worded hate speech laws and public order legislation have undermined the right to Freedom of Speech.”

In 2021, media and political groups subjected Christians to increased stereotyping, the report added. Christian-led organizations were banned from social media platforms for expressing dissenting beliefs, while insulting and violent speech against Christians was permitted on the same platforms.

An OIDAC press release noted that “in journalistic articles, Christianity was described as a ‘dangerous ideology’ and believers were called ‘stupid religious fanatics.’ For example, a Spanish politician described a Catholic procession as a ‘Taliban’ event, and another politician commented that the 7,000 murdered Catholics during the Spanish Civil War ‘should have been more.’”

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Germany, Spain, and the U.K. saw the push for “safe access buffer zones” around abortion clinics. This “criminalizes activities including prayer vigils, conversations with the public, and other forms of peaceful activism,” the report said.

The report also included two well-known cases: that of the former Finnish minister Päivi Räsänen, who was charged with “hate speech” for tweeting a passage from the Bible on homosexuality.

The other case concerned two Swedish midwives who refused to perform an abortion and, for that reason, were allegedly denied employment.

“Unfortunately, the European Court of Human Rights dismissed the case, setting a precedent for future cases and prompting legal scholars to urge for a formal examination of the case,” the report said.

The report also covered new laws that impose sexual education, often including gender theory. According to the authors, these infringed on the rights of parents to decide how to educate their children.

Further areas of concern identified in the report were rules that gave minors autonomy to undergo an abortion and gender transition and “unjustifiable and discriminatory treatment” against churches in anti-COVID-19 legislation.

In its concluding list of recommendations, the report called on “politicians, journalists, and other public figures” to support “building a more tolerant society.”

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