Anti-Christian Hate Crimes on the Rise in Europe

Anti-Christian Hate Crimes on the Rise in Europe

Anti-Christian hate crimes are on the rise across Europe, according to a report by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC Europe) for 2022-2023. The report also documents legal developments that could endanger Christians’ religious freedom, incriminating them for living out their faith.

According to the report, the number of anti-Christian hate crimes across Europe rose from 519 in 2021 to 748 across 3o different countries in 2022. This includes cases of arson, which rose from 60 to 105. The report notes that there is reasonable probability that the actual number of these crimes is higher than the reported numbers due to the sensitivity of the issue and the limited resources of those reporting the crimes.

The report highlighted a surge in attacks motivated by extremism and performed by members of radical groups such as Antifa, radical feminists, LGBT groups, satanist groups, far-right groups and radical Islamists. Some of these proudly claim responsibility for the crimes through graffiti, leaflets or social media posts.

In May 2022, as a father went to pick his children up from their Catholic school in France, he was stabbed to death in front of them by a suspect who claimed to do it “in the name of God.” On Christmas Day, 2022, a church in Finland was burned to the ground during a mass, with the side doors tied shut with ropes by the perpetrator. Thankfully, the people were able to escape. Last January, four people were injured and an altar server was murdered with a machete in two churches in Spain. In February, the historic Church of the Cross in Germany was burned and desecrated.

The year also held concerning legal developments in several countries. The Irish Parliament passed an extreme “hate speech” law in April that would criminalize the private possession of material (such as memes on one’s phone, videos or books) that “is likely to incite violence or hatred” against a person or group for certain characteristics. Furthermore, the burden of proof would be on the accused to prove that they did not intend to spread hate.

Bills like this have the potential to extend “hate speech,” which is not clearly defined, to encompass religious beliefs and opinions and can be weaponized by those who disagree with the teachings of Scripture. Two bishops in Spain were prosecuted for their teaching on marriage and sexuality in recent years, and several street preachers in the U.K. have been arrested for allegedly causing “distress” to listeners.

School teachers are at high risk of being targeted with the vague concept of hate speech. Welsh teacher Ben Dybowski was fired after being asked to share his Christian beliefs in a mandatory training on diversity. “We were told it was a safe space and encouraged to speak freely,” he remarked. In the U.K., teacher Joshua Sutcliffe was fired for sharing his traditional views on marriage with students, and chaplain Reverend Bernard Randall was dismissed after criticizing the school’s LGBTQ guidelines in a sermon.

“Buffer zones” around abortion clinics—areas within which “all forms of influence” are prohibited, including prayer, pro-life counseling, and even consensual conversation—are becoming more prevalent in several European countries. These prohibitions threaten freedom of assembly, speech and expression, as revealed in the case of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce in the U.K., who was arrested in December 2022 and March 2023 for praying silently within a buffer zone.

Additionally, efforts have been introduced to limit freedom of conscience in the medical field in regard to sex change surgeries, abortion and euthanasia. For example, in September 2023, the German government announced intent to reform mandatory medical curriculum to include abortion. Changes like these would pressure Christians either to conform and act contrary to their convictions or risk losing their careers.

“The preservation of religious freedom relies not just on good laws and legal victories, but also on cultural support,” Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, remarked to The Washington Stand. “Sadly, we are looking at plummeting cultural support for the rights of Christians in the West and a rise of intolerance against the Christian faith, particularly when that faith is proclaimed boldly in the public square.”

“As freedom of thought, conscience and religion is a cornerstone for free and democratic societies,” the report states in its conclusion, “we hope that states will not compromise on the protection of these fundamental rights, and thus ensure an open and peaceful climate in our societies.”

OIDAC Europe, the group that released the study, encourages Christians to educate themselves on their rights, confront any restrictions or infringements upon their religious freedoms and continue sharing their faith freely: “Engage in a public discourse in a respectful and informed manner,” they suggest, “contributing to the dialogue between religion and secular society and building bridges between different groups.”

Above: An emergency services worker drives at the scene of the fire that destroyed a church in Rautjarvi, Finland, on Christmas Day 2022.

Photo: Ari Nakari/Lehtikuva via AP

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