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UK ranked amongst top 5 places Christians experience intolerance in Europe

by Heather Preston

The UK has been ranked as one of the top five countries in Europe where Christians experience the most violations to their religious freedom.

A preliminary report investigating the human rights of Christians in France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom in 2019-2020 has found an increasing level of intolerance towards believers throughout society. 

Data from the Observatory of Intolerance Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC Europe) found this to be prevalent from both a government level - through legislation and political discourse - and through social exclusion and criminal acts against Christians. 

The study found that most practising Christians in Europe have come across some form of discrimination or intolerance due to their faith, while anti-Christian hate crimes increased by 70 per cent across the five countries between 2019 and 2020.

OIDAC executive director Madeleine Enzlberger told Premier secular intolerance and Islamic oppression are the two driving factors threatening the lives of Christians in Europe.

"It is primarily secular intolerance - a radical form of secularism that tries to relegate religion to the private sphere only - so it does not have any public space or voice."

"Another dynamic is Islamic oppression. In areas where extremist forms of Islam are part of community life and the culture, Christian converts face threats from their families and the wider community."

Research indicates that Christian converts with a Muslim background are highly vulnerable in European societies, with many of them facing intolerance and violence, without intervention from state authorities. 

The report also highlights an opposition to traditional and conservative moral views and stigmatisation within the media as contributions factors to secular intolerance and discrimination. 

These human rights violations impact Christians most powerfully in their church life, education, politics and workplaces, Enzlberger said. 

"One example of this is through vandalism. We've had an increase in hate crimes especially towards churches and Christian buildings. Many churches decide (for safety reasons) to close their doors outside of hours of service - so people are then unable to pray. This infringes on religious freedom."

Enzlberger went on to cite lockdown restrictions during the covid pandemic as another factor, explaining that governments choosing not to prioritise places of worship further violated the human rights of Christians.

Self-censorship is also a growing concern, particularly within the UK - which has the highest number of recorded public cases, according to the research. 

Interviewees from the five countries reported a high level of self-censorship and concerns over their rights to freedom of speech and conscientious objection that could see Christians excluded from certain professions. Within the education sector Christian university students reported feeling unable to debate certain topics freely or express their opinions without judgement or negative consequences. 

Despite these worrying observations, OIDAC Europe believes further research and education into the topics of religion and Christian discrimination can bring about change. Enzlberger had this encouragement for Europe's Christian community.

"If you want to raise awareness you have to have facts, numbers. Then you can go out and raise awareness.

"As Christians we don't have to be victims, we can do something about it. 

"Although committed Christians are a minority, they can be a creative minority. Speak up, go to your political representative and make them aware of the situation."

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