VIENNA, January 27, 2011 ( – An Austrian think tank and non-governmental organization is warning that freedom of religious expression is “at risk” in Europe from secularist intolerance on the left. While Islamic extremists continue assaults on Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and around the Middle East and Asia, restrictions on public expressions of religious belief by Christians are growing in Western Europe, the cradle of Christendom.

“You cannot compare injustices here with the situation in, for example, North Korea, India or Pakistan,” observed Gudrun Kugler, a lawyer and director of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe. “The Christians who are there in spite of fierce persecution are our great models.” 

Nevertheless, in Europe Christianity is hated because it is “the last obstacle to a new vision of secularity which is so politically correct that it verges on totalitarianism,” she said.

“Christians are increasingly marginalized and are appearing more often in courts over matters related to faith. So I think that we are heading for a bloodless persecution.”

Her concerns were echoed by Dr. Massimo Introvigne, of the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, an Italian sociologist of religion, who said this week that European Christians are not being “oversensitive.”

Discrimination against Christians in Europe, he said, “is more subtle” than in countries where they are outright persecuted, but it is real.

“Ironically, one of the most important analysis of this situation is included in a speech which was never delivered, although its text was subsequently released,” said Introvigne. “Benedict XVI prepared a discourse for a visit to La Sapienza University in Rome on January 17, 2008, where he planned to discuss marginalization of Christians in the Western public discourse.”

That papal address, however, was cancelled after protests by a small number of students and faculty against the pope’s alleged “homophobia.”

“The incident, of course, confirmed more than anything the Pope may have said that a problem of intolerance against Christians does indeed exist in the West.”

The Observatory monitors and systematically documents incidents of intolerance and discrimination against Christians and Christianity throughout Europe. It has produced a report chronicling incidents of anti-Christian discrimination in Europe’s institutions between 2005 and 2010.

Kugler told MercatorNet, “In private you can pray and think as you like – but in the public square there are ever more restrictions. Jews and Muslims experience intolerance and discrimination. But so do Christians, even if they constitute a nominal majority here.”

“We have received many reports of the removal of Christian symbols, distorted, stereotyped and negative representations of Christians in the media, and social problems which are faced by Christians, such as being ridiculed or disadvantaged in places of work.”

In general, the Observatory’s report reveals that the main faultline in Europe is the clash between the new “equalities” laws that have been put in place at the prompting of the homosexualist and radical feminist political lobbies, and Europe’s still at least nominally Christian population. This has been helped by an institutionally anti-Christian media, she said.

“I have the impression that journalists and policy-makers are often more anti-Christian than their fellow citizens. But they shape the mood of the country. What we observe is that Christians are increasingly being described as ‘homophobic,’ sexist, intolerant and unworldly.”

Asked what Christians can do, Gudrun Kugler said, “Speak up.”

“Many European Christians don’t realise that defending their beliefs is a way of speaking up for the weak, the disadvantaged and the defenceless.”

It is an “act of Christian charity to insist on one’s democratic rights,” she added. “We have to seek inspiration from brothers and sisters of ours who bravely face violent forms of persecution, instead of quietly backing down.”