By SA McCarthy/The Washington StandNovember 28, 2023
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A new report is documenting a drastic rise in anti-Christian hate crimes across Europe. The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDAC Europe) published its annual report last week, detailing a 44% increase over the course of 2022 in social hostility towards and violent attacks against Christians as well as acts of vandalism and desecration against churches.
According to the report, 748 anti-Christian hate crimes were committed in Europe last year, 38 of which were violent physical attacks and three of which were murders. Arson attacks were also more common than in years past and churches were targeted for firebombings and vandalism, especially in France and Germany. In fact, arson attacks nearly doubled over the course of one year, rising from 60 attacks in 2021 to 106 in 2022.
The OIDAC Europe report noted that "there had been a surge of clear extremism-motivated attacks." The majority of these attacks were committed by groups with far-left, satanic, Islamic, feminist, or LGBT affiliations. In comments to The Washington Stand, Irish Freedom Party founder and president Hermann Kelly said, "The increase in the number of anti-Christian hate crimes is truly shocking in a supposedly Christian continent. The presence of many millions of the Islamic faith which preaches hatred, domination, and annihilation of all non-Muslims has no doubt added greatly to the rise in anti-Christian violence."
He added, "A second spike in the anti-Christian pincer movement is that of aggressive and militant secularism of the far Left. Incredibly, they find common allies and goals in the silencing of Christian public presence and influence in European society."
In its report, OIDAC Europe also noted a growing movement to suppress religious liberty and criminalize Christian practices. In Ireland, for example, the government has been promoting what OIDAC called "Europe's most extreme 'hate speech' bill." The Criminal Justice (Incitement to Violence or Hatred and Hate Offences) Act would shift the burden of proof to the accused, who would have to demonstrate that they did not intend to "spread hate." The bill criminalizes private materials, such as memes on a phone or books on a shelf, and could potentially outlaw Christian teachings on such subjects as LGBT ideology.
The bill, if enacted, would also allow police officers to obtain warrants to investigate suspected "hate speech" without presenting any evidence to a court. Other European nations have also seen "hate speech" legislation weaponized against Christians: two Catholic bishops in Spain have been prosecuted for repeating the Catholic Church's teachings on marriage and sexuality, numerous "street preachers" have been arrested in the U.K. for allegedly causing "distress" to those who disagreed with Christian teachings, and Finish parliamentarian Päivi Räsänen was charged with "War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity" for quoting Scripture.
Others have seen "hate speech" policies weaponized in areas like academia. In Ireland, schoolteacher Enoch Burke was dismissed from his post and eventually jailed for refusing to call a student by transgender pronouns.
Welsh teacher Ben Dybowski was fired after being asked to share his Christian position on homosexuality and abortion during a confidential, mandatory diversity and gender awareness training session. U.K. teacher Joshua Sutcliffe was sacked for sharing his Christian views on marriage with students, and school chaplain Bernard Randall was dismissed for delivering a homily critical of the LGBT agenda.
Another area of concern is abortion "buffer zones," designated areas outside of abortion facilities where prayer, protest, and pro-life counseling are legally prohibited. These "buffer zones" are becoming prevalent in Ireland, Germany, Spain, and the U.K. Last year, pro-life activist Isabel Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for silently praying outside an abortion facility in England.
The Catholic woman held no rosary and did not speak aloud but simply stood in silence. She was arrested, tried, and acquitted, and then arrested again two weeks after the acquittal on the same charges.
Arielle Del Turco, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at Family Research Council, commented to The Washington Stand, "The preservation of religious freedom relies not just on good laws and legal victories, but also on cultural support.
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. This is symptomatic of the larger trend of secularization.
As culture becomes increasingly secular, people understand and value it less. Christian beliefs about the human body, sexual ethics, or the exclusivity of Christ can be seen as offensive or even oppressive."
She further noted, "Over time, this leads to greater erosion of religious freedom and cultural support for Christians simply wanting to live out their faith or express their beliefs."
In its conclusion, the OIDAC Europe report stated, "As freedom of thought, conscience, and religion is a cornerstone for free and democratic societies, 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." Hermann Kelly forcefully added, "Only a return to Christian faith, family, fecundity, and education will give culturally and demographically dying Europe the chance of a future."