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A new report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is drawing attention to an alarming increase in hate crimes directed at European Christians. The data shows 980 recorded hate crimes against Christians in 2020. This is a 60% increase from the 595 incidents recorded in 2019.
The report, published on the OSCE website, released data on hate crimes against people of multiple religions, sexual orientations, disabilities and more. The statistics are based on information sourced from the Holy See, The United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and OSCE.
There were two distinct categories for the documentation of hate crimes: those against property and those against people. Attacks on Church properties saw a huge leap from 459 in 2019, to 871 in 2020. This nearly two-fold increase was contrasted by a slight decrease in personal attacks. In 2019 there were 80 reports of hate crimes on individuals, while 2020 only saw 56. Catholic Herald suggests that the decrease in personal attacks may have been due to the social distancing orders of 2020.
Broken up by country, the nations with the most hate crimes reported against Christians were Germany (172), France (159), and Italy (113). The Holy See has reported an additional 150 hate crimes taking place throughout Europe. The report, however, notes that these figures could be much higher, as only 11 of the 57 OSCE states have submitted data on hate crimes against Christians.
Attacks on Church properties, the category with the sharpest increase, included arson, theft and desecration of Eucharistic hosts, and graffiti. In most instances of graffiti, the defacements included attacks on the Church’s pro-life stance.
Abortion advocates were particularly hard on Poland, which experienced over 100 instances of hateful words graffitied on church facades. Catholic Herald noted some of the worst cases, including the defacement of a statue dedicated to unborn children and church services interrupted by unruly mobs throwing objects at parishioners.
Arson attacks have been increasing as well, especially in historically Christian countries, like France, Spain, Germany, and Italy. In Germany, a church was nearly burned down after assailants poured disinfectant on pews and set it on fire. In October, 2020, 10 masked individuals pushed a car up to the door of a French church and lit it on fire.
While attacks on Christian people saw a decrease in 2020, these reported crimes were often the most heinous. In 2020, three people were killed in a knife attack at the Basilica of Notre-Dame in Nice. In Italy, a priest known for work with the poor and migrants was fatally stabbed outside his parish. In the UK, two different incidents of attacks on priests within their respective churches were reported. In one instance, the priest was physically assaulted during a funeral service.
These attacks and arsons were accompanied by a sharp uptick in hate speech expressed towards Christians on social media platforms. Many of these occurrences feature death threats to Christian clerics and personalities. Some of the perpetrators have taken to sharing their acts of hate on social media platforms.