By Jonathon Van Maren
Amid the din of pandemic reports, restrictions, and frenetic news cycles, several topics of concern frequently get lost in the noise. The persecution of Christians around the world is one of these. I recently wrote an essay for The European Conservative on the brutal ongoing massacres in Nigeria, where Christians live faithfully in the face of nearly constant violence and the silent complicity of their own government.
In November, the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe released an alarming report detailing a 70% increase in hate crimes against Christians. Did you read that on the news? Or hear about it in the mainstream media? Of course not. Christians, as always, are the acceptable victims and convenient scapegoats for the elites, and thus violence against their persons or properties are ignored.
To discuss this report, I spoke with executive director Madeleine Enzlberger. Here is our conversation.
What are the findings in this new report that stand out to you the most? What is most alarming?
There are three specific findings that I would say stand out the most and are presumably also the ones that are the most alarming. To begin with, almost all of the observed countries, except for Sweden where we still do not have enough data on hate crimes, have a significant problem with hate crimes against Christians. The number of hate crimes against Christians in Europe increased by 70% from 2019 to 2020. Arguably, most of the cases are a form of vandalism against churches and Christian buildings but that does not mean that this trend is not worrying. Public acts of criminal violence against a specific religious group and their property have an immense signaling power of intimidation, and it also normalizes violence against this group in the wider public. This can lead to a negative downward spiral. Just imagine when people today start to think it is somewhat okay to set a church on fire, maybe over time they might also think it is okay to physically hurt a Christian, as well. Physical assaults are luckily still rare but not non-existent. This development needs to be stopped immediately, and it must be appropriately addressed by the responsible political and societal stakeholders.
Second, the level of self-censorship among Christian in Europe is relatively high. This is due to various reasons. The level very much depends on the historical, cultural and political context of each individual country. Some Christians are so used to censor themselves that they do not even recognize they are doing it. This contextualization is especially visible in Germany between East and West, because of their long political separation before 1989. Also, in France it is common to keep your faith most of the time private due to historical and political reasons. Despite the national context, fear plays a major role when it comes to self-censorship, and reality sadly shows that this fear is not completely unreasonable. In the U.K. numerous Christians are facing court trials because of what they said publicly in accordance with their faith. Some lost their jobs, others were de-platformed or denied of an academic education. Especially, university students know very well what they are allowed to say or not, in order to not get bad grades or to be marginalized by their peers or even professors. Several Christian pro-life groups have been denied association at their university unions and some have received death threats and their property was damaged. Yes, self-censorship as such is not a bad thing. It even has a healthy function in a social setting, but it can quickly turn into a crippling dynamic that neglects a true diverse public discourse.
Third, the suffering of Christian converts with a Muslim background is tremendously under-researched and they absolutely do not receive the support they need and deserve. In these cases, we do not only talk about vandalism but actual and serious physical and mental threats. If the person is a refugee and a Christian at the same time the situation is even worse, as the person faces pressure not only from their family and local community, but they also have to fight the religious illiteracy and bias of state authorities. The treatment of Christian converts and refugees by European state authorities mirrors the overall blindness of Europe to the suffering of persecuted Christians in the rest of the world. Otherwise, they would not deport a Christian to a country in which conversion to Christianity is considered a crime worthy of the death penalty. This tragic issue is not just ignored by the government but also by media. With our research we really hope to be able to shed more light on the issue to raise more awareness and to ultimately help those people in need.