Report Finds Religious Illiteracy a Key Factor in Anti-Christian Hate Crimes in Europe

In a 71-page annual report released December 7, 2021, Vienna-based Observatory of Intolerance Against Christians in Europe (OIDAC Europe) found hate crimes against Christians in 2020 rose 70 percent over the previous year in Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Sweden with heightened levels of intolerance toward believers in the five nations. 

The report points out “a high level of religious illiteracy” among state authorities, public officials and journalists contributes to anti-Christian discrimination and that the “improvement of religious literacy” is “a crucial element to improve the dialogue and to tackle discrimination and intolerance against Christians” 

Dome of Cologne at night illumination Hohenzollern (photo by Lichtwerkstatt,
Cologne Cathedralat (Photo by Lichtwerkstatt,

OIDAC cited the alarming surge in infringements of the freedom of Christians from the 2020 annual hate crimes report of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

ODIHR, to which OIDAC contributes cases of anti-Christian hate crimes in Europe every year, is the main institution of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the world’s largest regional security organization devoted to stability, prosperity and democracy in its 57 participating nations from Europe, Central Asia and the Americas.

Titled “Under Pressure: Human Rights of Christians in Europe,” the OIDAC report identifies political legislation and discourse and social exclusion and outright criminal acts against European Christians.

“Hate crimes are usually a sign of an underlying problem, a barometer for the social climate in a country,” the report states and refers to “social and political change” as catalysts in transgressions against Christians. “The political discourse can—purposely or not—devalue members of a certain group, creating an intolerance led by fear, anger or ignorance.”

Church life, education, politics and the workplace were the four areas that most impacted Christians in the five countries studied. Although “church life is the most visibly affected due to an alarming number of hate crimes,” the report says, “education, the workplace and politics are following shortly after.” 

The frequency of anti-Christian hate crimes was higher in France and Germany, although the severity of the crimes was most pronounced in Spain and France “due to a reactionary form of secularism,” said the report, data for which was collected from January 2019 through December 2020.

“Secular intolerance and discrimination against Christianity seem to be based on the opposition against more traditional and conservative moral views of Christians,” the report said. “This polarization also appears to be promoted by sensationalist and religious-illiterate media that stigmatizes and marginalizes religious voices in the public debate.”

“Islamic oppression,” was another cause cited in the spike in attacks against Christians: “While secular intolerance is the driving dynamic in most of the cases and areas of life we observed, Islamic oppression mainly occurs in concentrated hotspot areas, in which Christian converts are the group that is mostly affected along with other residential Christians.” 

OIDAC Executive Director Madeleine Enzlberger described “secular intolerance” as “a radical form of secularism that tries to relegate religion to the private sphere only—so it does not have any public space or voice,” according to a December 7 article in Premier Christian News, an online site that monitors developments surrounding Christians worldwide.

“Christian converts with a Muslim background are a very vulnerable group in European societies, and there is very little research about their situation,” the report stated. “Our data indicated that many of them face intolerance and violence from their own social environment, and the danger they often face is ignored by state authorities.”

French police recorded more than 20 arson attacks against churches and over 1,000 incidents of vandalism against churches and Christian buildings. Priests in France, Germany and Spain were physically assaulted or threatened with violence.

The right to conscientious objection (against a particular mandate or requirement, such as serving in the armed forces) is mainly under threat in three countries covered by the OIDAC report. In Sweden, where conscientious objection is not protected by any legal clause, Christian professionals have already been adversely affected and “intentions to alter this clause in France and Spain could lead to a complete exclusion of Christians in certain professions.” 


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Europe hate crime Anti-Christian hate Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights