Anti-Christian “hate crimes” increased by 44% in Europe last year according to a newly-released report, with arson attacks on Christian churches increasing by 75% between 2021 and 2022.
The data was released by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC Europe), an organisation that monitors such intolerance and discrimination, as part of their Annual Report 2022/23. The report was released on Thursday the 16th of November, which was the International Day of Intolerance.
In 2022, OIDAC Europe reported 748 anti-Christian “hate crimes” across 30 different countries, ranging from arson attacks, graffiti, “desecrations” and thefts, to physical attacks, insults and threats.
The report noted a trend of increased arson attacks, which rose from 60 in 2021 to 105 in 2022. It also noted that “more hate crimes were perpetrated by radicalised members of ideological, political or religious groups that follow an anti-Christian narrative.”
OIDAC Europe’s Executive Director, Anja Hoffmann, claimed in a statement that the increase in “anti-Christian hate crimes,” especially in vandalism, is connected to a rise in “extremist motivation” and “a higher acceptance of the targeting of churches in society.”
“The criminalisation of expressions of mainstream religious teachings – which do not incite violence or hatred – as ‘hate speech’ is dangerous on various levels,” she said.
“It stigmatises legitimate conscience-related convictions and at the same time weakens the severity of actual incitement to hatred.
“Furthermore silencing Christian voices in public undermines the plurality of democratic western societies and essentially renders a free discourse impossible.”
Additionally, the group said that expressing Christian views had led to numerous individuals losing their jobs in 2022.
“Over the past year, several Christians lost their jobs, faced suspension, or criminal court cases for expressing non-violent religious views in public,” the group said in a statement.
“Christians who adhered to the traditional teachings of their churches were targeted or even prosecuted for allegedly committing ‘hate speech.’”
Specifically it named the dismissals of the teachers Ben Dybowski and Joshua Sutcliffe, and the school chaplain Rev. Bernard Randall.
The group went on to hit out at so-called “buffer zones,” particularly in the UK, which it says “criminalises prayer.”
“There have also been legal limitations on freedom of religion and assembly through so-called “buffer zone” bills, especially in the UK, which criminalise prayer and religious manifestations around abortion clinics,” the group said.
“Particularly striking was the arrest of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce who was interrogated by the police when standing silently in one of the ‘buffer zones’, and asked whether she was ‘praying in her mind.’”
Notably, a bill seeking to implement similar “buffer zones” just passed in Ireland’s Dáil overwhelmingly.
The Safe Access Zones Bill has been passed by a significant majority tonight in the Dáil. 117 TDs voted in favour, while 10 TDs voted against the Bill, which would ban prayer vigils and protests within 100 metres of abortion centres and hospitals.#gripthttps://t.co/08lMbAqRGi
— gript (@griptmedia) November 15, 2023
Some of the OIDAC figures roughly align with data released the same day from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – a major intergovernmental organisation whose members include 57 states from Europe, Central Asia, and North America. In its Hate Crime Report released this week, OSCE found that there had been 792 anti-Christian hate crimes in 34 European countries, which would make Christians the most targeted religious group after Jews.
Reacting to OIDAC’s figures, OSCE’s Professor Regina Polak expressed concern about the rising number of incidents.
“The increasing number of anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe reported by OIDAC is deeply worrying,” she said.
“It is highly necessary to raise both governmental and societal awareness for this problem and undertake political measures to tackle and combat it decidedly.”