The prevalence of hate crimes targeting Christianity has escalated in Europe, marking a substantial 44 per cent increase from the figures reported in 2021, according to recent research.
Released by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDAC), the report revealed that incidents such as arson, vandalism, and threats surged from 519 to 749 in 2022. The recorded incidents also include 38 cases of physical assault and three Christians murdered.
“OIDAC Europe has been documenting anti-Christian hate crimes for over ten years and has witnessed a steady increase in numbers. While most documented hate crimes against Christians are cases of vandalism, we have identified that increased cases of vandalism often lead to increased cases of physical assaults,” the researchers said.
Germany topped the list with 231 hate crimes, followed by Italy with 146, France with 106, and Spain and Poland with 53. The United Kingdom came in sixth with 43 incidents.
The report highlighted two distinct trends. Firstly, there was a notable surge in arson attacks, escalating from 60 incidents in 2021 to 105 in 2022—an increase of 75 per cent. The countries with the highest numbers were Germany, with 37 arson attacks, followed by France and Italy, each with 16 cases of arson attacks, and the UK, with nine cases.
“Arson attacks are a particularly worrying form of violence, as they often lead to the destruction of historical and culturally valuable religious objects, furniture, or art pieces, and directly affect the religious freedom of churchgoers, as church services have to be cancelled for a prolonged period of time to investigate and restore the place of worship. Many churches have suffered irrevocable damage, and in some cases, the attacks have also endangered the lives of Christians,” the report said.
Secondly, the report highlighted more acts by radicalised individuals in ideological, political, or religious groups pushing an anti-Christian agenda. In some cases, this translates into new laws restricting freedom of 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 criminalization 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 their children from undergoing ‘hormone therapies’ because of their religious convictions.”
The war in Ukraine was also mentioned in the report, as it is affecting the nation’s religious freedom. Many incidents are political and ethnic, leading to discrimination against Christians. Russian authorities are violating religious freedom by closing churches and arresting pastors. Ukraine has also been taking strict measures against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, detaining priests due to its historical connections with Russia.
In light of the upward trend, the observatory has recommended that government officials improve communication with civil society organisations and religious groups when drafting legislation that could directly or indirectly limit freedom of religion for Christians.
The report also urged Christians to confront any restrictions faced for exercising their faith.
“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,” the report recommended.
“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 concluded.