More than 500 anti-Christian hate crimes occurred in Europe in 2021, according to a recently released report from a religious liberty watchdog group.
The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians (OIDAC) in Europe, which is a nongovernmental Austria-based organization, revealed the numbers last week in its 2021 Annual Report regarding “cases of intolerance and discrimination against Christians in Europe” from Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2021.
The study found the number last year marked a steep decline from the year before, when almost 1,000 such incidents took place.
Among the 519 hate crimes against Christians documented in the report, France had the most with 124, followed by Germany with 112. Those countries were followed by Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom, with 82, 60 and 40 incidents, respectively.
The report noted 30 such incidents in Spain, 15 in Austria, 10 in Belgium, seven in both Ireland and seven Switzerland.
Vandalism was the most common hate crime against European Christians, according to the report. OIDAC logged about 300 incidents of “graffiti, damage to property, and desecration” against Christian churches or organizations.
Other crimes included “theft of offerings, religious objects, consecrated hosts, and church equipment.” There were reportedly 60 anti-Christian arson or intended arson attacks, 14 physical assaults or threats and four homicides.
OIDAC’s report also noted that Christians in Europe increasingly feel marginalized and that religious freedom on the continent is diminishing.
“Religious freedom is gravely threatened in Europe, especially that of Christians,” wrote Todd Huizinga, senior fellow for Europe at the Religious Freedom Institute. “And the greatest threat arises out of relativism. Now that relativism is the reigning worldview in the West, it has developed its own rigid, absolutist dogma, one that, in the name of a false tolerance, brooks no opposition.”
“A central tenet of that dogma is that sexual minorities, LGBT and gender-fluid individuals are oppressed minorities whose views must be affirmed,” Huizinga added.
Earlier this year, the OIDAC in Europe, its Latin American cousin and the International Institute for Religious Freedom released a report that found Christians are practicing “various forms of self-censorship” and find it increasingly difficult to express their faith freely even in countries that have historically been Christian.
The report, titled “Perceptions on Self-Censorship: Confirming and Understanding the ‘Chilling Effect’,” was compiled by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians (OIDAC) in Europe, the OIDAC in Latin America and the International Institute for Religious Freedom.
The data is based on “unstructured interviews” with people who have experienced what the report calls “the chilling effect” by which Christians self-censor about their faith, even unwittingly.