“Anti-Christian sentiment” is on the rise in Britain, Church of England priests told a survey which has revealed that more than two thirds of members of the clergy have been verbally abused in the past two years.
During the same period, one in ten CoE priests suffered physical violence, with the same proportion reporting they had noticed an increase in anti-Christian hate crime, according to the study commissioned by National Churchwatch.
Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, found that half of the 546 members of the clergy questioned for the government-funded study said that their work had become “more challenging” over the past 24 months.
Of the one in five priests who said they had been threatened in the last two years, the vast majority said the threat was against them personally, however 20 per cent reported receiving threats against their family while 35 per cent said they had experienced threats against church property, reports the Telegraph.
Comprising one quarter of incidents, demands for money topped the list of reasons behind verbal abuse, while more than one in six incidents were motivated by anti-Christian sentiment, academics found.
Jonathan Gabe, Professor of Sociology at Royal Holloway, said: “The clergy have a difficult job, especially when faced with the risk of violence, as documented in our survey.
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“The research suggests that further thought needs to be given as to how best to help clergy manage when faced with such violence.”
The director of National Churchwatch, Nick Tolson, said the CoE should do more to support and protect its priests, telling the Telegraph: “There’s still no organised training for clergy in dealing with violence or conflict management.”
Local media in London recently reported how the British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), which has spoken out against anti-Christian sentiment in Britain, were dismayed to discover that a nativity scene the group paid for had been “destroyed by idiots”.
The display, which was installed underneath the Christmas tree on Ilford’s High Road, was ruined just three days before Christmas in an attack which saw the statues of Mary and Joseph smashed, while the infant Jesus was decapitated.