Over 3,000 attacks against Christians in Europe were recorded last year, representing an all-time high, according to a study by the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
The institute reviewed thousands of newspaper and police reports, parliamentary inquiries, social media posts, and specialized blogs from Britain, France, Italy, Ireland, Germany, and Spain. The research shows that roughly 3,000 Christian churches, schools, cemeteries and monuments were vandalized, looted or defaced in Europe during 2019.
Violence against Christian sites occurred most often in France, where not only churches were attacked, but also schools, cemeteries, and monuments. These important institutions are being vandalized, desecrated and burned at an average rate of three per day, according to French government statistics.
According to police reports, in Germany, attacks against Christian churches occur at an average rate of two per day.
France and Germany are the two countries where Christians face the most attacks. Although Muslim perpetrators were often identified, the Gatestone Institute says that anarchists also play a large role in the attacks.
Previous years were not much better. In March 2019, France’s central criminal intelligence agency, the SCRC, stated there were approximately 875 acts of vandalism against Catholic churches in 2018, with the Ministry of the Interior drawing the same conclusion.
Attacks on Christian churches and symbols are also commonplace in wide range of European countries, including Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Ireland, Slovenia, Italy, and Spain. The attacks overwhelmingly involve Roman Catholic sites and symbols, although in Germany, Protestant churches are also being targeted.
“In the past, even if one was not a Christian, the expression of the sacred was respected. We are facing a serious threat to the expression of religious freedom. Secularism must not be a rejection of the religious, but a principle of neutrality that gives everyone the freedom to express his faith,” said Dominique Rey, Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, in an interview in Italian magazine Il Timone in August 2019.
“We are witnessing the convergence of laicism — conceived as secularism, which relegates the faithful only to the private sphere and where every religious denomination is banal or stigmatized — with the overwhelming emergence of Islam, which attacks the infidels and those who reject the Koran. On one hand, we are mocked by the media … and on the other, there is the strengthening of Islamic fundamentalism. These are two joint realities.”
European media blackout on Christian persecution
The Gatestone Institute further writes, “The perpetrators of anti-Christian attacks — which include acts of arson, defecation, desecration, looting, mockery, profanation, Satanism, theft, urination and vandalism — are rarely caught.”
When individuals are arrested, the police and media often censors information about their identities and ethnic backgrounds. Many suspects are said to have mental disorders; as a result, many anti-Christian attacks are not categorized as hate crimes.
In France and Germany, the spike in anti-Christian attacks corresponds with mass immigration from Muslim countries, according to the Gatestone Institute. However, there is also a problem with reporting. The lack of official statistics on perpetrators and their motives makes it nearly impossible to calculate how many attacks can be attributed to Muslim anti-Christian sentiment and jihadists.
The report says that Spain’s attacks against churches and crosses are almost all the work of anarchists, radical feminists and other far-left activists, who have an ideology designed to remove Christianity from the public space and the country overall.
While Europe’s media often amplifies attacks on Muslims, it also tends to downplay malicious acts against Christians. The issue of anti-Christian vandalism was rarely reported by the European media until February 2019, when vandals attacked nine churches within the space of two weeks. Following a suspicious fire that destroyed the iconic Notre Dame Church in Paris, the issue of church burnings once again made the headlines. However, the issue has once again receded from the media’s attention.
Data shows that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. A recent report commissioned by the United Kingdom’s government states that persecution of Christians is reaching near “genocide” levels. A report issued by the U.S. State Department states that approximately 245 million Christians live under severe persecution and that four out of five people persecuted for their religion are Christians.
Hungary defends Christians both in Europe and beyond
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán called on Europe to end its silence over Christian persecution during the 2nd Conference on Christian Persecution in Budapest on Nov. 26.
Orbán said during the conference that despite Christians being the target of 80 percent of all religious persecution in the world that “Europe remains silent over and over again.”
“A mysterious force shuts the mouths of European politicians and cripples their arms,” he said. “Christians are not allowed to be mentioned on their own, only together with other groups that are being persecuted for their faiths.”
Orbán sees Hungary as a bulwark against Christian persecution, and although it is a small country, he believes it will give courage for others to act.
During the 2019 conference, Orbán highlighted the country’s “Hungary Helps” program, which was created in 2017 by Orbán’s government with the purpose of helping Christian communities living under oppression. The Hungarian government provides direct aid instead of going through international NGOs or the United Nations.
“We are convinced that doing the right thing inspires good deeds, the determination of Hungarians breeds courage, the example can catch on. Action will liberate the paralyzed and restore faith in the importance of individual effort,” he said.
Title image: Map of attacks on Christians across Europe in 2019.