A Vienna-based Observatory has denounced a Europe-wide increase in the “hostilities, marginalisation and violence” suffered by Christians on the continent.

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The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC) released Monday its 2019 report on the religious freedom of Christians in Europe.

That report details over 300 documented incidents of anti-Christian “intolerance and discrimination” in European countries in 2018, up from 275 in 2017 and over 250 in 2016.

The Observatory made particular note of “an increase in incidents of vandalism, particularly intentionally-set fires, in churches in Europe”.

While the Observatory did note that in 2018 it registered fewer incidents of violence against Christian asylum seekers than in previous years, it said that was likely due to the closure of asylum seeker accommodation in many places in Europe.

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“While Christians in Europe do not face the persecution their brothers and sisters experience in other parts of the world, we cannot ignore the increasing incidents we see around us”, the OIDAC warned in its report.

“Across Europe, Christians have been fired, sued, and even arrested for exercising their freedom of expression or conscience.

“Christian-run businesses have been ruined financially, Christian student groups have been silenced, and Christian symbols and celebrations have been removed from the public square”.

“Christians in Europe are not simply experiencing social discrimination, prejudice, or restrictions on freedom”, the OIDAC continued.

“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.

“We have seen churches all over Europe vandalized, robbed, and burned, and Christian symbols destroyed”.

What’s next

The OIDAC noted that the more than 300 incidents of anti-Christian violence it collected last year still do not give the full picture of European religious freedom, due to some countries’ failure to keep track of crimes against Christians.

But it offered a series of recommendations it said were “positive steps toward respect for human rights in general and in particular for freedom of religion or belief”.

Those recommendations included a petition to employers that they “reasonably accommodate” the Christian beliefs of their staff, “especially with regard to Sunday observance, the wearing of religious symbols and the expressions of faith and values”.

The OIDAC also called on politicians “to refrain from introducing laws, including hate speech codes, that discriminate directly or indirectly against Christians or interfere with freedom of religion or freedom of expression”.

“Intolerance and discrimination against Christians — the squeeze and smash — affect all of us in Europe, including non-Christians”, the OIDAC said.

“It concerns everyone, and only through increased awareness and apparopriate responses at all levels of society, will the situation improve”.

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