In a new report, the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians expressed serious “concerns” regarding the human rights situation in Austria, especially regarding Christians.
The Observatory submitted the report on Thursday to the UN Human Rights Universal Periodic Review, which is currently assessing Austria regarding its human rights situation.
The report found a “very high” incidence of vandalism and burglary at Christian sites and denounced widespread anti-Christian discrimination and abuses against freedom of expression, assembly, and conscientious objection.
Dr. Gudrun Kugler, the director of the Observatory, told Breitbart News that in recent years there has been a shift both in public policy and the reigning popular mentality that has made life for Christians increasingly difficult.
“Ever more restrictive laws are squeezing religious freedom, while society itself is growing more and more intolerant of biblical Christianity,” she said.
The Observatory’s report documents abuses during the period of 2010-2015, covering a lengthy series of incidents directed specifically against Christians and Christian property.
In 2012 alone, the report offers a “non-exhaustive” list of 58 cases of burglary and 30 cases of vandalism of Christian sites, including arson, destruction of statues or other images, and defacing of property.
The year 2014, as well, saw an unbroken chain of anti-Christian acts. Though they bear no direct relation to each other, in their totality, they signal a shift in the social and religious atmosphere in the country.
This past December in the southern town of Groß-Enzersdorf, a Muslim of Egyptian origin cut down an old wayside crucifix with a motor saw, saying that it “annoyed him.” The cross had been a destination for pilgrimages for over 60 years.
In September, the main parish church of Leoben was vandalized, as hoodlums ripped apart paintings and destroyed crosses and candle holders. Across the altar cross, someone painted the words “death to priests,” and elsewhere the graffiti “Priest go home, otherwise we will burn down your church” was written. A few days later, a woman claimed that “voices” told her to vandalize the church.
In May, marauders severely damaged the world-famous Karlskirche in Vienna’s fourth district, splattering the stonework and statues with paint and defacing the wall with the words “Resistance follows repression.”
In the same month, arsonists started a fire at the entrance of a Vorarlberg church, resulting in damage to the church door, walls, and a wooden cross. Two 52-year-old women had to be brought to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
Three churches were vandalized on the same night last March in Breitenfeld, including St. Stephen’s cathedral. Four statues in the cathedral were toppled and destroyed, and a part of the baptismal font was demolished. In another of the churches, the vandals smashed nearly every statue, tore down the corpus of a wooden crucifix, and broke its arms. They also smashed the fingers of the solid stone statue of St. Vincent.
In the cathedral, a 37-year-old man was caught knocking over the statue of St. Jude, but was apprehended by bystanders before he could tear done the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The man, whose name was Ibrahim, was shouting at the faithful, calling them “puppets.” According to reports, he was uttering Islamist motivations for his attack.
Besides these and dozens of other cases of vandalism and theft, the Observatory criticized the use of Austria’s “stalking laws” to prevent prayer in front of abortion clinics, a move upheld by the state court of Graz, Styria. The Observatory criticized the practice as legally “ambiguous,” as well as an illicit limitation of freedom of assembly and expression.
Kugler told Breitbart that the breakdown in public respect for conscience is now resulting in “Christian entrepreneurs being forced to choose between their job and their faith.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.