Catholic News Service
OXFORD, England — A church-backed report has documented rising anti-Christian prejudice in Europe, despite calls for fairer legislation and measures to curb discrimination.
“Studies suggest 85 percent of hate crimes in Europe are directed against Christians — it is high time for the public debate to respond to this reality,” said Gudrun Kugler, director of the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians.
“A restrictive application of freedom of conscience is leading to professions such as magistrates, doctors, nurses and midwives as well as pharmacists slowly closing for Christians. Teachers and parents get into trouble when they disagree with state-defined sexual ethics,” Kugler said March 19.
Her agency’s 53-page report, published the same day, said incidents in 2011 had included a resolution by European legislators calling for a reassessment of legislation with “negative ramifications for Christians,” and a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Christian crosses could remain in Italian schools after a constitutional challenge.
It said “countless individuals and institutions” had warned of increasing anti-Christian intolerance and that the observatory had documented acts of vandalism, desecration, defamation and the exclusion of Christians from public and social life.
“Intolerant and discriminatory behavior results from opposition to individual traits of the Christian faith or moral positions that are intrinsically part of the Christian faith, as well as from a negative, categorical bias against Christians or Christianity as a whole,” the report said. “This behavior causes various sectors of society to be used as vehicles of intolerance and discrimination against Christians.”
Church leaders have urged better protection for Christian rights after complaints of prejudice across Europe.
In October 2010, the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences urged local bishops to help collect data on anti-Christian acts and “awaken public opinion.”
In a summer 2011 hate-crime report, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said violent anti-Christian discrimination had been monitored in Albania and Kosovo, but also in Austria, Belgium, France and Spain.
The observatory, founded in October 2010, monitors intolerance from media sources and victim testimonies; it briefs international governmental organizations such as the 54-country OSCE and the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights.
Among cases this March, the report said a left-wing German group, Antifa Freiburg, had called for Christian places of worship to be burned, while a parish church had been attacked by arsonists at Herblay, France. A French government report had registered acts of desecration at 522 Christian sites, a 96 percent increase over two years.
The Vatican’s website was temporarily taken down by an anti-Catholic group, the report added, while the British government ruled that Christians had no right to wear a cross at work.
Welcoming the report, the Switzerland-based Council of European Bishops’ Conferences said it was “behind those who do not see their rights respected.”
“Values and fundamental rights proper to Europe, such as freedom of religion and legal recognition of churches, are far from being an established reality in some nations,” Bishop Andras Veres of Szombathely, Hungary, said in a statement on the council’s website.
The report is posted online at www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu.