VIENNA, Austria (LifeSiteNews) – Anti-Christian hate crimes, especially arson attacks on churches, have increased by nearly 50% in 2022 compared with the previous year, according to the Annual Report of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians (OIDAC) for Europe.
Based in Vienna, Austria, OIDAC, the European watchdog for anti-Christian violence and persecution, has been reporting on the issue of violent attacks against Christians and anti-Christian laws in Europe for more than a decade.
In a summary of the report, OIDAC stated that “two particular trends were highlighted in the report, one was the increase in arson attacks, which rose from 60 in 2021 to 105 in 2022. The second trend was that more hate crimes were perpetrated by radicalised members of ideological, political or religious groups that follow an anti-Christian narrative.”
OIDAC’s annual report for 2022-23 was released November 16, the International Day of Tolerance. According to its finding, which are submitted to police records, anti-Christian hate crimes rose to 748 cases in 2022, which was an increase of 44% over the last year. Notably, among the crimes committed against Christians, “arson attacks on churches increased even by 75% between 2021 and 2022,” with “clear extremist motivation” evident behind many of the incidents, “perpetrated by radicalised members of ideological, political, or religious groups that follow an anti-Christian narrative.”
“In 2022, OIDAC documented anti-Christian hate crimes in 30 European countries. There were 38 crimes of physical assault, and three Christians were murdered,” the report stated. These attacks ranged “from arson attacks, graffiti, desecrations, and thefts to physical attacks, insults, and threats.”
Research showed that “between 2021 and 2022, there has been an increase in anti-Christian hate crimes from 519 to 748, including arson attacks, which rose from 60 to 105.”
“We have also identified an increase in attacks around Christian festivities, such as Easter and Christmas,” OIDAC stated. “Attacks are also more likely when the visibility of Christians is higher, such as during processions, public celebrations, and events with public decorations and symbols.”
Warning that new laws suppressing freedom of speech are being used to criminalize Christians, the report detailed the way in which “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,” as has been seen in the case of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who was arrested in the UK for “praying in her mind” within a “buffer zone.”
OIDAC further documented the persecution of Christians arising from “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.”
Detailing the findings that revealed specific, motivated, extremist groups perpetrating hate crimes against Christians, the report stated that “throughout 2022, OIDAC Europe observed that there had been a surge of clear extremism-motivated attacks. This is in comparison to prior years, where most crimes had an unclear motive or were perpetrated by private persons. However, in 2022, there were many more clear signs revealing an extremist motive. Particular groups have been identified as perpetrators through messages left behind through graffiti, leaflets, or social-media postings claiming authorship for the hate crimes.”
OIDAC further revealed that “data from 2022 contains 11 cases that showed a satanistic background, 16 attacks were identified as coming from far-left Antifa or anarchist groups, 11 attacks were perpetuated by Islamist groups, nine cases were perpetrated by extreme feminist or LGBTIQ groups, and four cases came from “anti-Clerical” groups. Furthermore, there was one case perpetuated by climate activists, and nine attacks were allegedly caused by religious-ethnic bias, most of which were related to the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.”
Perhaps the most striking crimes documented by OIDAC are the arson attacks that have destroyed beautiful Christian churches sometimes several centuries old.
According to the report, “while in 2021, OIDAC documented 60 cases of arson or intended arson against Christian sites, there were 106 documented cases in 18 different countries in 2022. 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.”
Although some of these arson attacks failed to cause severe damage, many of them “devastated churches, altars, and religious objects,” and seem to have been incited by violent slogans among anti-Christian political groups such as “The only Church that illuminates is the one that burns.”
OIDAC also drew attention to European governments’ criminalization of public expressions of faith under the legal pretense of prosecuting “hate speech.”
“As a result of the vague language used in ‘hate speech’ legislation, an increasing number of Christians have become vulnerable to religious freedom violations in the form of legal charges for expressing their religious beliefs,” the report stated. “Besides several street preachers in the UK who have faced arrests or fines according to the Public Order Act33, school teachers were identified as one of the groups most affected by the concept of hate speech extending into religious opinions and beliefs.”
Additionally, several governments have attempted to coerce doctors and medical professionals to participate in abortions in one way or another.
The report documented that “In September 2023, the German government announced a curriculum reform that would make abortion an obligatory part of medical studies. According to the government’s proposal, any student of medicine – even from fields unrelated to gynecology – would need to complete courses on abortion techniques in order to obtain a medical degree. Several senior politicians and different Christian communities in Germany have voiced deep concern about this proposal, which would entirely ban Christians opposing abortion for conscience reasons from all medical professions.”
The report also documented that in December 2022 “the Spanish Congress of Deputies passed a new law on abortion under which doctors who opt out of this procedure for conscience reasons will be placed on a list of ‘conscientious objectors’ and consequently removed from the medical committees for pre-natal issues.”
Summarizing their findings on the “legal infringements on religious freedom rights,” OIDAC wrote:
Freedom of expression of Christians is being limited through the increasing criminalisation of public expressions of religious views under so-called ‘hate speech’ or ‘anti-discrimination’ regulations. There have been legal limitations on freedom of religion and assembly through so-called ‘buffer zone’ bills, criminalising prayer and religious manifestations in certain areas.
Furthermore, there is a worrying trend of limiting freedom of conscience through the elimination of conscience clauses from existing provisions in medical laws.
Finally, the right of parents to educate their children in accordance with their religious beliefs has continuously been threatened through legal provisions, criminalising ‘non-affirmative’ communication between parents and children in regard to identity-related issues as well as through obligatory school education on ideological issues contradicting religious or moral beliefs.
OIDAC took to task the European Union and the United Nations for their lack of adequate response to anti-Christian violence and legal threats to religious freedom both in Europe and in other hot spots of persecution, such as Armenia and Nigeria.
Professor Regina Polak, a religious freedom advocate, said of the rise in violence against Christians in Europe, “The increasing number of anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe reported by OIDAC is deeply worrying. It is highly necessary to raise both governmental and societal awareness for this problem and undertake political measures to tackle and combat it decidedly.”