· According to a report published by the OIDCE ·
“The bishops in Europe are particularly conscious of these manifestations of religious discrimination and intolerance which actually confirm how some values and fundamental rights proper to Europe, such as freedom of religion and the legal recognition of our Churches, are far from being an established reality in some nations of the continent”, stated Bishop András Veres of Szombathely, Hungary. He was commenting on the 2011 Report of the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDCE) – a dossier dedicated in particular to cases of religious intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe. “Believing in God”, said the Prelate, who is also in charge of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, “must not be perceived as a fault or sign of weakness. Living and testifying to one's own religious creed in respect for the freedom and sensitivity of others can only be beneficial for everyone, believers or non-believers, Christians or non-Christians”.
The Report says that an increasing number of cases of intolerance and discrimination against Christians is being recorded. At the same time the growing interest of the media has given a voice to anonymous suffering of people in cases that are acquiring ever greater international importance. The statistics show how widespread the problem is: 74 % of those questioned in the United Kingdom said that there is more negative discrimination against Christians than people of other faiths and 84 % of the increasing vandalism incidents in France is directed against Christian places of worship. In Scotland 95 % of religiously motivated violence targets Christians. “The report”, Bishop Veres stresses, “also wishes to be an invitation for all Christians who have experienced a form of discrimination and / or intolerance because of their religious adherence to step out from anonymity and be courageous: believing in God must not be perceived as a fault or sign of weakness. Living and witnessing to one's own religious creed with respect for the freedom and sensitivity of others can only be beneficial for everyone, believers or non-believers, Christians or non-Christians. The bishops of Europe are behind those who do not see their rights respected and recall that freedom of religion is a valuable good which must be protected so as to continue to be a pillar of peace in our continent”.
The Observatory divides incidents of intolerance and discrimination against Christians into various categories: “Freedom of Religion”, “Freedom of Expression”, “Freedom of Conscience”, “Discriminatory Equality Policies”, “Exclusion of Christians from Social and Public Life”, Repression and Mockery of Religious Symbols”, “Insult, Defamation and Negative Stereotyping”, “Hate Incidents”, “Vandalism and Desecrations” and, lastly, “Hate Crimes Against Individuals”.
Listed in the report are cases that hit the headlines such as the denouncement of the Pontiff in May 2011 for “crimes against humanity”, because of the Catholic Church's teaching in matters of sexual morals, the campaign to remove from the University of Granada, the Faculty of Theology, seen as a violation of the neutrality and laity principles consecrated in the Spanish Constitution. Then many cases are reported in Germany which demonstrate that the freedom of confessional associations to carry out anti-abortion activities is heavily curtailed. In Jersey, United Kingdom, postal workers refused to deliver audio recordings of St Mark's Gospel deeming it “offensive material”. Episodes of the intimidation of professionals who were making a conscientious objection on topics such as abortion and euthanasia have also been recorded, such as the case of a pharmacy in Berlin whose windows were shattered because the pharmacist does not sell the “morning-after pill” due to his Catholic convictions. Cases exist, one reads in the Report, of the exclusion of Christians from social and public life (such as the attempt in Spain to suppress chaplaincies and other places of worship at universities there).
Lastly, there are abundant references to episodes of “vandalism and desecrations” of churches, places of worship and sacred items in Austria, Germany, Spain, and above all, France. The Report also cites events that occurred during the World Youth Day in Madrid: various participants were attacked by a group of demonstrators.
The document (available on www.intoleranceagainstchristians.eu) is the only exhaustive investigation of the situation of Christians in Europe. The Observatory is a member of the Fundamental Rights Platform of the EU Agency and works in close collaboration with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). A primary tool is the website that monitors and catalogues instances in which Christians and Christianity are marginalized or discriminated against in Europe (EU, countries about to enter it and the continent in general). Its main means for collecting information are press sources and individuals. The website in its turn provides international governmental organizations, and especially the OSCE, with information. As, Gudrun Kughler, Director of the Observatory explained, “Our site wants to encourage the victims of Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians to tell their stories... and also aims at raising awareness among all people of good will that the phenomenon must be taken seriously” and needs common responses.
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