ROME — The number of officially recorded anti-Christian incidents in France has risen by 285 percent between 2008 and 2019, according to Ellen Fantini, director of the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDACE).
Speaking with the Catholic News Agency (CNA), Fantini said that the trend of increasing attacks is particularly noteworthy in France, such as the recent arson attack on the Nantes Cathedral, but is evident elsewhere as well.
Citing data provided to the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), anti-Christian crimes in the UK doubled from 2017 to 2018, Fantini said. “We know they are rising in Spain, Germany, and Sweden, as well.”
In its 2019 report, OIDACE chronicled the increase in Christian persecution throughout Europe, pointing to “a rise in the number of churches, Christian symbols, and cemeteries across Europe being vandalized, desecrated, and burned, compared to previous years.”
Moreover, the report states, across Europe, “Christians have been fired, sued, and even arrested for exercising their freedom of expression or conscience.”
“As we have noted in the past, Christians in Europe are not simply experiencing social discrimination, prejudice, or restrictions on freedom. Christians, including clergy, have been attacked or killed for their faith. As in previous years we have continued to see threats and attacks against Christian converts from Islam,” the report stated.
The 64-page report offered summary descriptions of more than 325 cases of intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe for the year 2018.
The report also cites the official annual crime statistics for 2018 provided by the French Interior Ministry, which included 1063 “anti-Christian acts” and showed that in the ten-year period from 2008 to 2018, there was an increase of some 250 percent in attacks on Christian sites.
Christian sites in Europe suffered a record number of attacks in the year 2019, with some 3,000 Christian churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments vandalized, looted, or defaced.
Another report compiling the anti-Christian acts perpetrated during 2019 revealed a range of profanation including arson, defecation, desecration, looting, mockery, Satanism, theft, urination, and vandalism.
The greatest number of acts of violence against Christian sites occurred in France, where churches, schools, cemeteries, and monuments “are being vandalized, desecrated, and burned at an average rate of three per day,” according to reports.
According to Wednesday’s CNA report, the French Interior Ministry registered 996 anti-Christian acts in 2019 — an average of nearly three per day — while noting that the true figure may be higher, since officials do not count fires of undetermined cause at churches across the country.
Last month, arsonists set fire to the Saint-Pierre cathedral in Rennes but were thwarted by firefighters who arrived in time to put out the blaze before serious damage was done. The 15th-century Nantes cathedral was not so fortunate, suffering substantial damage after it was set afire last week.
Germany is not far behind, however, with attacks against Christian churches happening at an average rate of two per day. Meanwhile, attacks on Christian churches and symbols regularly occurred in 2019 in Belgium, the UK, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, and Spain as well.
The Vatican itself has denounced the rise in anti-Christian hate crimes throughout Europe.
Speaking in May on behalf of the Holy See, Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk stressed the gravity of anti-Christian violence in an address at an OSCE conference on intolerance and discrimination.
Msgr. Urbańczyk noted the worrisome increase in explicitly anti-Christian acts across Europe, including “threats, violent attacks, murders and profanation of churches and places of worship, cemeteries and other religious properties.”
In his address, Urbańczyk added his concern over the growth of the false idea “that religions could have a negative impact or represent a threat to the well-being of our societies.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was corrected post-publication to reflect that the data on anti-Christian attacks applied only to France, not all of Europe.