The European Union and religious liberty: progress, indifference or decline?
Despite European Union guidelines and the work of a special envoy for religious freedom and belief, the state of religious freedom inside and outside of Europe at times seems to be worsening, not improving. Our elites do not seem to recognise the dramatic increase of both persecution against Christians outside Europe and hate crimes like vandalism against Churches in European countries.
According to the commentator Martin Kugler, who is president of the Vienna-based Observatory on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians, a cultural shift is needed to correct false assumptions about persecution against Christians.
There is an assumption that “Christians have always been perpetrators and never victims.” This belief seems to be “a dogma that prevents our elites from acknowledging the dramatic increase of both persecution against Christians outside Europe and hate crimes like vandalism against Churches in European countries.”
That means, “as long we do not address this anti-Christian narrative, secularist lobbying plays an easy game to marginalize Christian actors and religious impact in public life.”
Europe has experienced a surge of terrorist attacks with religious motivation in Europe, but also an increase in ultra-nationalism, which chooses a single religion as part of the national heritage and persecutes all the other minorities, Aid to the Church In Need said in its 2018 report on global religious freedom.
Since 2015, the France-based Observatoire de la Christianophobie has monitored incidents of religious intolerance in France. Its recent reports show that
in February alone, France witnessed 47 serious acts against religious buildings. Of these, 15 were vandalism, 15 were robberies, ten were acts of desecration, and there was one arson.
St. Sulpice in Paris ignited
The situation is difficult in Germany as well, according to recent reports of the Observatory on Religious Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians. In June, the Observatory reported,
there were 30 attacks against churches in Germany, both Lutheran and Catholic.
There are worrisome hints that anti-Christian activities are growing in several big countries in Europe, therefore, religious freedom is already at risk on the continent. Kugler also added that:
concerning religious freedom in Europe, the main challenge is “a strong anti-Christian bias among the cultural and political elite.”
“This phenomenon consists of strong personal prejudices and an understandable fear among journalists and politicians not to present oneself as to ‘sympathize’ with the Church by defending freedom of expression or conscientious objection.”