On March 30th, the Helsinki District Court unanimously dismissed all charges against MP Päivi Räsänen and Bishop Juhana Pohjola in a major freedom of speech victory. Päivi Räsänen was prosecuted for sharing her faith based beliefs on marriage in a tweet, and Juhana Pohjola had published a pamphlet, by Räsänen containing these beliefs, 17 years earlier. The ruling of this high-profile case stated that “it is not for the district court to interpret biblical concepts," ordered the prosecution to pay the legal costs of 60,000 EUR, and gave the prosecution seven days to appeal.
On the 30th of April, an antique silver cross was stolen from a church in Barlassina. The cross, which was kept in a small box that was forced open, was of little monetary value which makes the theft particularly sacrilegious. Investigations were underway to find out who committed the theft.
Sergey Chudinovich, an Orthodox priest from the church of Serhiy Chudynovych in Kherson, was kidnapped on March 30th. Three men, who claimed they were police officers, searched the documents of those present and then drove off with Sergey Chudinovich, who was said to be a well know public figure. He is one of the many religious leaders who has been abducted in Russian occupied areas of Ukraine.
Since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 21st, 59 religious buildings have been badly damaged by Russian attacks in 8 different regions. The Ministry of Information Policy and Culture of Ukraine reported that most of these building had been Orthodox Churches while others were synagogues, mosques, and religious education institutions. The Kremlin claims to "protect Orthodoxy" but these statistics tell a different story.
A ciboria and chalices, both of which were in the sacristy or tabernacle, were stolen from the Couhé church on March 28th. Consecrated hosts were also taken, which implies the perpetrator was targeting the celebration of the Eucharist as hosts can be sold for high prices in some satanic circles. The theft of these objects of worship was a hateful attack on the religious traditions of the church.
On March 27th, a cross made of cast bronze was stolen from the crypt of St. Michael's church in Fulda. It was not known who did it but the police were investigating.
The letter Z, a pro-Russian symbol of war, was painted on the Gethsemane Church in Würzburg on March 27th. The congregation responded with a prayer for peace and the parish priest, Anna Bamberger, condemned the act. The perpetrator, who used this place of worship to advocate a war, was not found.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for a ban on all limits on abortion as they may violate the rights of "women, girls or other pregnant persons." Among these proposed policies, was one that would limit medical professionals' rights to refuse to take part in abortion for conscientious reasons. These targeted Christian doctors who, for religiously based moral reasons, are unable to assist in an abortion and would face consequences if countries were to act on this guidance.
An unknown thief ransacked several rooms in the church of Walsum-Aldenrade, and stole the money box from the choir community on March 26th. The bathroom window was pried open to gain access to the building but few clues as to who did it have been found. The police were notified and are looking for witnesses.
A 22 year old man was detained in Luban for the burglary of a church, and church buildings, on the 24 of March. He damaged the door of the sacristy and broke windows to gain access to the other church buildings where he stole property left there. He was responsible for 11 thefts in all, some unrelated to the church, and was put under police provision and banned from leaving the country.
In the UN Human Rights council's Universal Periodic Review of Greece on April 23rd, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), encouraged Greece to provide alternative religious classes for students who were not Orthodox Christians. They said that there should be a class for all major religions in Greece and the Orthodox Christian class should be optional, as should all the other religious classes. This would increase the religious liberty of all denominations but also that of other Christian religions and especially parents of alternative religions.
During the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Greece on April 23rd, a World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) Advocacy Officer, denounced the Greek law which prohibits proselytization. This law prevents Christian religions or otherwise, from attempting to undermine the religious beliefs of others. Although rarely applied, this law could hinder religious discourse and a Pentecostal was sentenced using this law.
Unknown thieves broke into the St. Nicholas Basilica of Bari and stole valuable items from the St. Nicolas statue within. They took a book with three silver balls and a cross with some precious stones. From the other hand, they took a golden ring with some stones and an old necklace. This statue has become a symbol of peace in the last weeks, due to the Ukraine war, which made the theft especially malicious. The theft occurred on 22. March.
Release International has reported that Alexsander Glushko, the pastor of the Light of the World Evangelical Church of Mariupol, has been arrested by the Russian military. He was believed to have been taken to Dokuchaevsk, which is close to Donetsk, but no further information has been given about his wellbeing. Other pastors homes near Mariupol have been searched and the "hunt for pastors has begun in areas now under Russian control."
An independent investigation found that there was no substantial evidence for Worcester College's apology and cancellation of the Wilberforce Academy in September of 2021. After hosting this Christian youth conference that seeks to uphold free and considerate debate about controversial issues, this Oxford College said it had received "a number of complaints" and would not hold the event next year. Christian Concern inquired about these complaints, which they had heard nothing of, and upon getting little response, instigated their own investigation.
Dmitry Bodyu, the American - Ukrainian pastor of the Word of Life Church, was taken from his house in Melitopol, Ukraine by Russian soldiers. His wife Helen explained how 10 soldiers walked into their house, questioned them about their nationality, and then took her husband along with their electronic devices and other documents. This was the second pastor, that we know of, to be abducted by Russian troops.
Almost all of the Stations of the Cross in Wettenhausen have been violently vandalized by unknown persons on March 18th. The police estimated that the damage was around 150,000 Euros but with the cleanup would probably end up being more. The deliberate attack on sacred Christian symbols demonstrates a complete lack of respect.
Around the 8th of March, several Anti-Christian graffitis appeared in Vienna. The home and office of Gerhard Labschütz, a pro-life Catholic, were painted with anti-Christian tags by unknown vandals. The graffitied epithets read: "here lives a Christian fundamentalist" and "abort fundamentalists." Mr Labschütz is also the managing director of the Catholic-based Austrian Cartell Association (ÖCV), the offices that were also targeted by the perpetrators. Similar tags were found outside the offices of two other organisations: "Fairändern" and the "Lebensbewegung" (ÖLB).
In the church of San Leopoldo in Albinatico, a candlestick for votive candles, and the offerings donated to the church, were stolen on 17. March. The thief, also inserted some lighted candles in the candlestick next to the special seats where the electric candles are usually put. When the parish priest Don Paolo Monti entered the church, he found that the lit candle was bending over and catching an electrical candle alight which he said could have started a fire.
The sacristy of the St. Bernhard church in Angelmodder was ransacked by unknown vandals who stole and broke sacred objects. The thieves broke through a window made by the famous artist Johannes Schreiter and stole chalices, destroyed a monstrance, and broke into a safe. The damage and theft of these sacred objects was reported to the police.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has warned of the religious oppression that Ukraine will experience under Russian control. They have recorded the increasing religious intolerance in Russia over the years and are concerned for the societal consequences that will undoubtedly ensue. Several religious buildings have already been damaged in the shelling along with the arrests of religious leaders and those attending prayer events.
The police were called after the St. Cuthbert's Church in Wells, Somerset was vandalized on March 16th. A door was damaged and glass was broken but no one has been found yet. After viewing some CCTV footage, the police have a man they would like to question.
The enclosure wall of the Saint-Marie-Saint-Michel Chapel in Grenoble was tagged with hateful messages on March 16th. The inscriptions included the phrase: "Here homophobic racists" with an arrow directed toward the door and where the word "Civitas" was also written. The incident was reported to the police who started an investigation.
For the past 15 days, the Koekelberg basilica in Belgium has had cobblestones thrown through its windows by young teenagers. Other vandalism and disrespectful acts have been done at this sacred sight in the past but the recent escalation was evident. The director general, Martine Motteux-Abeloos, regrets how little the police have done and will hold talks with other leaders about potentially closing the sight to the public.
Robin Walker, Schools Minister in England, told the House of Commons' Education Select Committee that schools would continue to teach LGBTQ+ content. This came in response to Conservative MP Miriam Cates who said "you cannot change sex" and that she often got concerns from parents that their children were being transitioned in school. This posses a problem for Christian parents and children who may disagree with such teachings on a religious basis.
Anastasiya Parshkova was detained but not charged, on March 15th for holding a sign that had: "The 6th commandment: Thou shalt not kill" written on it. She was wearing a headscarf and stood for five minutes outside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior before she was arrested and taken to the Khamovniki police station. She said: "despite my fear, I decided that this must be done."
Evangelical ministers have faced a severe backlash after signing a letter to Liz Truss which expresses their opposition to the governments upcoming conversion therapy ban. Consequentially, they have had to take down the list of signatures which was published on the Ministers' Consultation Response website for fear of more acts of discrimination happening. It had collected 5,000 signatures from ministers and church leaders.
The SNP in Scotland have advocated for legislation that will make it a criminal offence to not "affirm" someone's preferred gender and make it illegal for parents to "refuse to support" their children in taking puberty blockers. This legislation would prevent people from legally holding to their religious beliefs on issues like gender and infringe on parental rights by not allowing parents to educate their children on sexual matters in a way they deem appropriate. The latter would disproportionately affect Christian parents who may have religiously grounded sexual guidelines.
The Saint-Martin de Tours church in Courcoury was targeted by a thief who stole consecrated hosts on March 14th. The tabernacle was broken into and a lunula, which contained a large consecrated host, was taken. The Bishop of La Rochelle, Mgr Colomb, commented on, "this act of pure hatred and denounced a very serious sacrilege committed against Christ and against his Church". He called in a "new blow of the spear in the side of Christ." An investigation was launched by the police.
On March 12th, the Russian Orthodox Church of St Nicholas in Oxford was looted by unknown individuals who damaged the holy alter and stole other religious items such as crosses, and altar vessels. They also broke open the church safe and stole a collection of money that was intended for Ukraine. The police were investigating the crime.
The two wooden side doors of the Sacred Heart of Jesus church in Lissone were set alight by an arsonist in the night of March 10th. The attack looked like the work of "Nerone", someone who has done repeated attacks of a similar nature to churches in the area. Necessary investigations were carried out by the Carabinieri the next day.
Rev. Ioann Burdin, a Russian Orthodox priest, was arrested after he gave a speech that condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine. His speech, given in the Karabanovo village, was said to “discredit(ing) the use of the Armed Forces” reported the BBC. His name was also on a public letter signed by 285 Russian Orthodox priests which called for an end to the war.
The Swedish Minister of Education, Lina Axelsson Kihlblom, announced the next step in the Social Democrat's plan to ban private religious schools. It will impose stricter regulations on schools that require them to report all religious activities and principals will have to pass "democratic conditions" to have their position. These new regulations have been introduced in the "democracy clause" and were justified with the need for "democratic control" of education.
The website of the Stanley Road Baptist Church in Morecambe, Lancashire was suspended by its host firm Torrix since the pastor signed an anti-conversion therapy letter. This letter was addressed to Liz Truss, whose governmental department will be dealing with proposed legislation to ban conversion therapy. Matt Fletcher, the Torrix proprietor, said he cannot support anything that opposes the LGBTQ+ movement. Rev. Hewitt commented his sadness for this development, but still expressed gratefulness for the working relationship they had with Torrix.
Stephen Donnelly, Irish Minister of Health, announced that the government plans to draft legislation regarding safe zones around abortion clinics before the Dáil summer break. This proposed law aims create a 100 meter zone around abortion facilities in which people cannot protest. This will severely restrict peoples freedom to express their beliefs on this issue, especially Christians who tend to hold pro-life views.
On March 8th, the façade of the Santissima Annunziata church in Turin, was defaced with anti - Christian graffiti by feminists during National Women's Day. The floor and steps were covered with purple paint that condemned the "patriarchy" of the church. This act showed an apparent ignorance to the role Christianity has played to improve the rights of women.
The St. Bernadette church in Montpellier, has once again been tagged with anti - Christian phrases such as, "the only church that illuminates is the one that burns". There have been a series of vandalistic attacks to this church and churches in the Montpellier area but no one has been identified despite an investigation launched by the national police.
The Beverwijk Mennonite Church was the victim of a vandalistic attack on March 8th. The intruder succeeded in kicking a chandelier from the ceiling but due to the lack of surveillance, was not caught. This location has also become a drug trafficking sight and cameras would help prevent that as well.
During the night of March 6th, burglars force their way into the St. Joseph Hospital Church and stole the key to the tabernacle. To do this, they broke through a wooden door and pushed open the door of the sacristy. The tabernacle holds the sacred hosts which shows this was a targeted act.
Four mothers of soldiers were detained for praying for peace in Ukraine at the Holy Spirit Cathedral in Minsk, the capital of Belarus. They, along with 100 other soldiers' mothers, were attending the regular evening prayer when the officers followed them into the main Orthodox cathedral of the city and after the service, demanded their documents and then took them for questioning. They were taken to the Central District Police Station and were released four hours later.
MLA's in Northern Ireland voted in support of a bill that will create "safe zones" around abortion clinics despite 98 percent of the 6,412 public submissions expressing strong opposition to it. This proposed legislation, from Green Party leader Clare Bailey, will make it illegal to “influenc[e] a [person seeking an abortion], whether directly or indirectly” within “safe access zones” reported the Right to Life News. Christians who hold pro-life views will find it difficult to freely express them under this proposed legislation.
Father Maksym Kozachyna, of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, was killed near Ivankiv on March 3rd when the Russian troops were advancing. He was in uniform at the time and an eye witness said he was pulled out of a car and shot. The Russian military has often targeted religious leaders during their invasion.
On March 1st, unknown perpetrators broke into the Villach parish church and tore off the metal decoration of a picture of the Virgin Mary while also stealing five gold plated candlesticks worth several hundred euros. During the police investigation, two metal bowls from the holy water font were also found near the crime scene.
A man, who has been identified by the police and arrested, spat in the face of a priest at the Saint Michel church in Bordeaux. Foreigners had set up stalls inside the church without permission and the police had to intervene. At the exit of the church, a priest was blessing those in the square when a man allegedly spat in his face. The priest has chosen not to press charges due to the church policy of maintaining peace.
Charity and Faith leaders around the UK have raised freedom of speech concerns in regard to Part 3 of the Policing, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts bill (PCSC). This bill empowers police officers to impose conditions or arrest public demonstrators who cause “serious unease, alarm or distress”, or even “inconvenience” to members of the public. Proposed amendments will remove this part of the bill and await final votes on the 28th of February.
Armed men, dressed in military uniforms and balaclavas, broke into the St. Nicholas Cathedral in Mariupol during the administration of a baptism. They physically harmed an employee, a security guard, and the priest; and then took money from the church safe, stole food, and household items. They then concluded their rampage by fleeing in two of the clergies cars. Due to their state of shock, those who observed the act were unable to identify the criminals.
The parish of Sainte-Bernadette in Montpellier has been graffitied with threatening tags directed at the church and Father Benoît on 25. February. The phrases were mainly intifada and anarchist related and included "the only church that illuminates is the one that burns." Father Benoît was distressed by the act and planned to file a complaint.
The church of St. Peter and Paul in Niederndodeleber, Germany was vandalised on February 24. Pastor Martin Zander found "numerous destructions" and smears, reported the Volksstimme as well as paper scattered everywhere. The devastation reflected a lack of respect for religious spaces.
Several vases at the alter of the Thizy-les-Bourgs church were broken on 24. February. It was not known who committed the act but an investigation was started.
An urn, used for the exchange of payment for lighting candles, was broken in the Moux-en-Morvan church on February 21st. The contents of the urn were also stolen but it was not known who committed the sacrilegious act.