Anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe increased by 44% last year. That’s according to the latest annual report by the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC) which documented ‘hate’ incidents targeting Christians such as arson, vandalism, threats, physical assaults, and even murder.
The OIDAC survey also recorded “violations of freedom of religion, expression, association, and conscience. The Observatory has been tracking hate crimes against believers in Europe for the past decade. Its 2022/23 Annual Report recorded a total of 749 documented hate crimes against Christians in 30 European countries in 2022, including 38 physical assaults and three murders. That’s up from 519 hate crimes against Christians in 2021,
“There is a reasonable probability for higher dark numbers, due to limited reporting on anti-Christian hate crimes, the ‘chilling effect’ that makes victims too afraid to report them and the mainstream media’s reluctance to cover them,” the researchers reported. Arson attacks on churches surged by 75% between 2021 and 2022. The OIDAC report found the worst countries for anti-Christian hate crimes were Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and Poland. The United Kingdom and Austria were also near the top of the list.
The National Catholic Register reports the findings align closely with those reported by the intergovernmental Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) which recorded 792 anti-Christian hate crimes in 34 European countries, “making Christians the most targeted religious group after Jewish believers.”
OIDAC also examined instances of Christians who reportedly “lost their jobs or faced suspension and criminal court cases for expressing non-violent religious views in public, as well as violations of parental rights to educate children in accordance with one’s religious convictions.”
The Christian Post reports that: “An increasing trend in hate crimes against Christians perpetrated by radicalised members of ideological, political, or religious groups that follow an anti-Christian narrative was also highlighted as Christians faced infringements on their religious freedoms through new laws regulating speech in public.”
“The right to freedom of speech continues to be a highly debated issue, as new laws are seeking to regulate speech in the public sphere, and some even in the private sphere. New ‘buffer zones’ around abortion clinics are one form of state regulation that has led to the criminalisation of Christians for praying silently on the street,” the report said.
“The religious freedom of Christians has also been affected through other legal developments, such as vaguely formulated and overreaching laws that would criminalise parents, pastors, and teachers if they express dissenting opinions regarding LGBTIQ-related discussions or discourage children from undergoing ‘hormone therapies’ because of their religious convictions,” it continued.
The Christian Post writes that the agenda against Christians in Europe is also seen in efforts to remove conscience clauses from legislation in the medical space that “put Christians who refuse to participate in controversial practices for religious reasons in vulnerable positions.”
Professor Regina Polak, the head of the Department for Practical Theology at the Catholic-Theological Faculty at the University of Vienna who also works with OSCE, described the increasing number of anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe as “deeply worrying. It is highly necessary to raise both governmental and societal awareness for this problem and undertake political measures to tackle and combat it decidedly.”
In light of its findings, the Observatory urged government officials to improve communication with civil society organisations and religious groups when drafting legislation that could limit freedom of religion for Christians directly or indirectly. “Improve religious literacy among public officials and state-owned media, and thereby ensure fair representation of religious views in media communication and awareness of religious freedom rights whenever state measures affect the lives of Christians,” the report recommended.
It also encouraged, among other things, that governmental human rights institutions better monitor and record instances of intolerance and discrimination against Christians. Journalists, opinion leaders, and other members of society were encouraged to report and raise awareness about anti-Christian hate crimes; avoid engaging in misrepresentation and negative stereotyping of Christians and be aware of their responsibility in cultivating a tolerant public discourse. “Employ the same standards when reporting or writing about Christians that are used with other religious groups or minorities,” the OIDAC report advised.
It also encouraged governmental human rights institutions to better monitor and record instances of intolerance and discrimination against Christians. “Create awareness among Christians about what secular intolerance entails and how it can lead to self-censorship among Christians. Equip Christians to continue to share freely about their faith and engage in public discourse in a respectful and informed manner, contributing to the dialogue between religion and secular society and building bridges between different groups,” the report recommended.