ROME, May 31, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In all, 15 European countries currently have laws on the books that effectively restrict the freedom of religious practice and speech of Christians, according to testimony at the annual meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), May 22 in Tirana, Albania.

Dr. Massimo Introvigne, an Italian sociologist and author said that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world, with one Christian being killed out of religious discrimination every five minutes, particularly in Islamic or Communist countries like North Korea.

OSCE is the world’s largest security-oriented intergovernmental organization.

“The most dangerous areas,” Introvigne said, “are those which limit the conscientious objection of Christians who do not want to cooperate in abortion, the sale of abortifacient pills, or the celebration of same-sex marriage.”

“In Europe, we have identified 14 laws that are likely to negatively affect the religious liberty of Christians in 15 countries,” he said. “Fortunately, Italy is not among them.”

In 2012, his group reported 169 rulings made in courts around Europe “that we judged to be dangerous to the freedom of Christians.”

Introvigne is the head of the Observatory on Religious Liberty established last year by the Italian Foreign Ministry and Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno.

He highlighted laws which “limit the freedom to preach through the misuse of laws against so-called ‘hate speech’; those which restrict the freedom of religious education and parents’ rights to educate their children, and those which place restrictions on the use of religious symbols.”

Introvigne warned that the “logic” of anti-Christian legal discrimination in Western countries could easily lead to more violent outcomes.

“Naturally, it would be a mistake to place homicidal violence against Christians occurring in some countries of Africa and Asia on the same plane with legal and administrative discrimination against Christians in Europe,” he said. “But in terms of religious liberty, the logic of the inclined plane applies.”

“Where discrimination becomes normal, the transition to violence is never far away,” he concluded.

At the 2011 conference, Introvigne said, “Between the 1st and the 20th centuries there were 70 million Christian martyrs and 40 million of them were in the last century.”

“Statistically,” he said, “persecutions of Christians are the biggest ones but the media dedicate the least time to them.”

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The Vienna-based OSCE has representatives from 57 states and focuses on issues such as arms control, the promotion of human rights, freedom of the press and fair elections. In recent years it has hosted the annual conference in response to the growing reports of anti-Christian discrimination in Europe.

Dr. Gudrun Kugler, the head of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians (OIDC), said in her keynote address that it is mainly those Christians who attempt to take seriously the ethical demands of their religion who suffer.

“Sometimes I get asked, how can a majority be discriminated against? Well, it is not the nominal Christian who is fully aligned to society’s mainstream, who suffers discrimination,” she clarified. “It is those to strive to live according to the high ethical demands of Christianity, who experience a clash. Those are not the majority. And even if they were: History has shown that a leading minority can discriminate against a peaceful majority, as we saw in the striking example of apartheid.”

The OIDC, she said, “documented 41 laws which effect Christians West of Vienna adversely.”

She added, “Unfortunately, with regard to the situation of Christians West of Vienna there is a problem of underreporting – not only by the people themselves, but also by their governments.”

The OIDC found laws limiting conscientious objection in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, and Ireland; curbing freedom of speech by “hate speech legislation” in France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom; violations of freedom of assembly and association in Austria, Germany, France, Netherlands and Spain; discriminatory equality policies in the EU, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain and UK and limiting of parental rights in Belgium, France, Germany, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden.

Kugler said that Europe is “ready for honest reasonable accommodation when it comes to the clash between people of faith and a mainstream which seems to be at unease with religion. “I ask you to be wary of horizontal equal treatment legislation: Such policies can inflict serious dilemmas on Christians.”

She asked the OSCE member states to combat underreporting and develop materials on how to combat intolerance against Christians and to disseminate this through the OSCE region.

In Western countries, Introvigne in 2011 blamed the growth of “the dictatorship of relativism that allows expressing non-relativistic ideas only in the private sphere and not in the public one.”

This, he added, is particularly being manifested in the suppression of any objection to the homosexual movement.

The Italian government established the Observatory on Religious Liberty last year after a visit between Mayor Alemanno and Pope Benedict XVI, who said that historically and culturally Rome has “a special role to play in defense of religious freedom and particularly in denouncing the persecution of Christians perpetrated in the world.” Vatican specialist Andrea Tornielli reported the pope's words in La Stampa last June.

Introvigne was chosen to head it as the founder and director of the Center for Studies on New Religions, that focuses on combating racism, xenophobia, and discrimination, with particular attention discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.

The founding document from the Foreign Ministry acknowledged Rome as “the center of Christianity, a meeting point between cultures, religions, and ethnic groups.”