A new report on "Hate Crimes Based on Religion, Belief or Nonbelief in Turkey" by the Freedom of Belief Initiative of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee describes the increasing problem of hate incidents against religious minorities in the country. These attacks target Christians, Jews, Alevis (a branch of Shīʿa Islam with some pre-Islamic influences, which is practiced mainly in Turkey), and atheists. The nature of the hate attacks varies between damage to property, threats, violent attacks against individuals, damage to places of worship and cemeteries, harassment, and insults. Some places belonging to religious communities have been repeatedly targeted.
In the district of Haselbach in Braunau, a sacristan was brutally beaten up during his evening prayers on the 29. September. The perpetrator has been identified as a 26-year-old homeless man from Romania. The perpetrator had asked the 87-year-old sacristan for money, who had given him some help before. This time, the sacristan refused and the young man decided to attack him. The victim was found by witnesses, who saw him severely injured and alerted the police.
The position of an EU Envoy of Religious Freedom is still vacant. The position was left vacant for 2 years, until it was briefly held by Christos Stylianides from May to September 2021. He left the role, as he was offered a different position only 5 months later. In 2022, it was communicated that Mario Mauro would be confirmed as a new Envoy, but there has not been any further confirmation. On the 23. September 2022, Marco Gombacci wrote an Open Letter to Ursula von der Leyen questioning why the EU is not making the safeguarding of Religious Freedom a priority, given its "indispensable value for defining democracies and states under the rule of law".
On the 20. September, a large-scale study was published by the Faith and Media Initiative (FAMI), which looks at the portrayal of faith and religion in the media. The study revealed there is a strong demand across the world for more news and media coverage about faith. It also shows that journalists and editors admit coverage of faith-related topics is rarely encouraged in the industry. The study had 9,000 respondents, including citizens, journalists, and editors from 18 countries and major religions. An important finding was that the general population feels that "media coverage can perpetuate faith-related stereotypes rather than protect against them."
A Scottish politician, John Mason, has been disciplined by party leaders at Holyrood after he showed support for pro-life activism outside hospitals. He was sent a written warning and was accused of causing women “great distress” for his remarks on abortion and buffer zones outside clinics. The news was reported recently on the 15. September.
Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, has pronounced in favor of the legislation meant to limit pro-life activity around abortion clinics, which could lead to the creation of abortion clinic "buffer zones" across Scotland. The First Minister suggested that pro-life groups could protest in front of the Scottish parliament instead of gathering outside abortion clinics. A legal counsel for ADF UK, Mr. Igunnubole, warns that such laws do not possess a "reasonable excuse" to ignore basic tenets of the rule of law, such as Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly.
In the city of Leeds, members of society raised concerns, claiming that street preachers in the city center are using hate speech and homophobic language. The local council, together with the Police have now issued a new "code of conduct", in which they tell preachers that they respect their freedom of expression, but also recognise that it may be limited to "prevent disorder or crime".
Rev Dr. Bernard Randall is a Christian chaplain who was reported to a terrorist watchdog by the school he worked at, after giving a sermon addressing the new LGBT Guidelines and telling his pupils it was ok to make up their own minds, as long as they remain respectful towards other's opinions. He is now facing a high-profile Employment Tribunal hearing and has even been blacklisted as a safeguarding risk to children by the Church of England (CofE). Dr. Randall says he was interrogated and told that refusing to capitulate to the allegation and denying his beliefs made him a risk. The diocese safeguarding team concluded ‘the Church itself is a risk factor.’
The parishioners of a Romanian Orthodox Church found the door locked with chains and a padlock on Sunday 21. August. Unknown vandals" had wrapped a chain around the iron knobs of the front door of the St. Roque's church in Valletta, they also locked the chain with a padlock. The president of the community, Fr George-Alexandru Popescu, told the newspaper that he contacted the people of the parish to see if someone had locked the doors in this way, but found out that it was an act of vandalism. Another incident had already happened in November of last year, when vandals poured gasoline on the parvis.
On 21. August, "Grimsby Live" reported that the Willows Community Church in Grimsby had been tagged with slogans about sex and drugs that affected the community. Organizers of the Church repainted the walls within hours after the desecration took place. And the news outlet chose not to publish the pictures of the vandalistic act, due to the nature of the slogans. The police was notified and they will run an investigation.
Teenager vandals entered the Church in Pionca di Vigonza with their bikes and set fire to a Crucifix on the 18. August. One parishioner noticed the smoke coming out of the Church. The Carabinieri has identified two young boys, who committed the arson by placing candles under a Crucifix inside the church. Fortunately, the flames were extinguished within minutes. The police is still investigating to identify other perpetrators.
On the 16. August, the tabernacle of the parish of Santa María Reparadora in Santander was desecrated. The perpetrators stole the ciborium with the consecrated hosts that were reserved inside, as well as the virile of a monstrance. The Diocese of Santander and the National Police confirmed that a group of unidentified individuals desecrated the temple. It seems that at least one parishioner witnessed the incident, seeing how two persons went to the tabernacle, opened it, and took the sacred objects. Fr Antonio Arribas, media delegate of the Diocese, told ACI Prensa that the incident has been reported to the Police.
Three armed and masked individuals robbed the presbytery of a church in Gironde during a baptism ceremony on the 14. August. The perpetrators stole a chest that contained the money of a week's collections. As one of the priests found the robbers, one of them pointed his handgun at him while the others fled. The police were immediately alarmed, but they did not manage to arrest the criminals. The amount of damage is around 2000 Euros and the police has opened an investigation.
The Church of Buissenal was vandalized on the night of 13. to 14. August by unknown perpetrators. The vandals broke into the building by destroying stained glass windows and left a message on the main altar with the word "EVIL". They also defaced two grave markers in the cemetery.
The doors and several sections of the façade of the Saint-Patrice church in Rouen were tagged with insulting slogans and militant symbols on the night of Saturday 13. August. The Diocese released a statement expressing the sadness due to the desecration and announced that the parish has filed a complaint with the police for damage to property. The tags were removed from the historic Church on the 16. August.
Germany rejected the asylum application made in 2018 by Hassan, a 44-year-old Iranian who converted to Christianity in Iran and was prosecuted for the same reason. When he testified before the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Germany, he disclosed that he learned about Christianity in Iran through his brother-in-law, who had been imprisoned for his activities and was then killed for practicing his faith in jail. During the second week of August, the European Court of Human Rights refused to listen to Hassan's case, meaning now he faces the threat of being deported to his home country, where he will likely face imprisonment or death.
The columns and the flower boxes of the Church of San Benedetto in Livorno have been spray-painted with red tags. Some of the inscriptions that defaced the Church said "No Nazi" and "1312". It is presumed that it is the same vandals that have vandalized a statue of Canapone in the Piazza XX Settembre. A concierge hopes that the security cameras might help identify the perpetrator.
The historian Dick Harrison recently wrote a review of a book called "The First Right: Freedom of Religion. Freedom from Religion", written by the deputy secretary general of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance, Jacob Rudenstrand. The historian commented that the book was worth reading and pointed out that the current persecution of Christians "hardly gets any media attention."
On Sunday 7. August, tthe police in Murcia arrested two men after they attacked the church of San Bartolomé during the celebration of Mass. The perpetrators, aged 24 and 27, who are originally from Estonia, entered the church shouting and obscene gestures. The parish priest and several parishioners tried to intervene and stop them before they gained access to the tabernacle. The parishioners told the police officers the details of the incident and regretted the lack of respect by these individuals for their faith and the violation of their freedom of worship. The perpetrators have been handed over to the Examining Magistrate's Court on duty.
Unknown perpetrators vandalized the Catholic Church of the Good Hirte, using a marker pen to write words and sayings on the pillars and walls inside the church. They further desecrated a Bible, which was open for reading, and a fresco in a side niche. Pastor Gerd Möller said that "the fresco, in particular, will not be easy to restore". According to the Pastor, the attack took place during the morning on August 4 and the damage caused amounts to 10,000 euros. He further added that "the immaterial damage cannot be estimated. A church is a place of encounter with God and prayer. These places are of inestimable value for people who practice their religion". The parish filed a criminal complaint with the police who launched an investigation to find the perpetrators.
The Canadian police released the hate crime data for 2021 on the 3rd of August, showing an alarming rise in anti-religious hate crimes: from 530 cases in 2020 to 884 in 2021. Anti-Catholic hate crimes rose 260%: while there were 43 cases in 2020, it rose to 155 in 2021. Catholics were the second most target group after Jews. Main News Broadcasters reported on these worrying numbers, but although Anti-Catholic motives were the second most targeted religious group and showed the highest rise among all categories, the media only used examples from other groups.
On the 29. July, the wall of the Church of our Lady in Zurich was found with inscriptions in red paint saying: "Burn in Hell", "Strike Fundamentalists on the Mouth" and an anarchist symbol, along with paint dripped over the staircase. For the time being, the parish staff is not allowed to clean up the graffiti, while the crime is being investigated by the police. The shocked priest said he had never experienced anything like this.
During a press conference on the 28. July, the "International Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte (IGFM)" reported on the indifference and even bias present in the BAMF (the Migration Office in Germany) in regard to the fate of Iranian Christian converts, who face persecution or even death if deported to Iran. Pastor Dr. Gottfried Martens, an expert on legal practice and deportation procedures recalls how representatives would make fun of the statements of Christian Iranians, he stated that court hearings were "pure gambling". Many Iranian converts shared their hardships and disappointing experiences with the german authorities.
The church of Saint-François-d'Assise in Perpignan was desecrated on the 23. July in the afternoon by a group of vandals. The perpetrators ransacked the church and the sacristry, they threw the consecrated hosts to the ground and attempted to set fire to a statue of the Virgin Mary and dried flowers. They also broke the safe and looted the little money that was in the church from offerings and donations. The police is investigating the case.
During an interview with the Christian Institute, Dr. James Holt, Chair of the Freedom Declared Foundation, said that there is a lack of religious literacy among some elected officials in the UK. He noted that at the recent International Conference on Freedom of Religion and Belief in London, the issue seemed to be addressed mainly as a foreign policy issue and not a domestic concern. He considers that "much more needs to be done" to counter anti-religious hatred in the UK and secure religious freedom.
Between July 10 and 19, unknown vandals smashed two windows in the parish of St. Paul in Klein. The perpetrators threw stones at the windows, creating a total of five holes distributed over the panes' surface. The total amount of the property damage has not been assessed yet but, according to the police, it is estimated to be around several thousand euros, since "these are very old and colorful stained glass panes".
The facade of St. Agostino's Church, located in via Principi D'Acaja, was smeared with writings by perpetrators who were unaware of the security cameras in the vicinity. Thanks to the surveillance system the police were able to identify those responsible for damaging the church. Federico Battel, the commander of the Municipal Police of Pinerolo, disclosed that "we are talking about some girls, probably adults, from the shooting we recognize the faces well, now we are working to trace the names and surnames. Subsequently, we will proceed to report for damage and the costs of the restoration will also be charged".
Rosa Lalor, who on the 24th of February of 2021 was fined for praying silently on the public street, and later decided to challenge the sanction, won her appeal. At the time, the police considered that she did not have a "reasonable excuse" to be outside, even though she explained that she was simply "walking and praying" and that daily exercise was allowed. She received a fine of £200 and was then detained in the police car. Rosa Lalor decided to challenge the fine, with the help of ADF UK and won the case in court.
On the early evening of July 18, two people attending the church in Leezen noticed smoke building up in the rear area of the church and alerted the authorities. According to the police's preliminary investigations, a box with candles was lit on fire inside the church, deeming this case an "attempted serious arson". However, the extent of the damage caused could not be assessed yet. The police are looking for witnesses who might have seen people acting suspiciously on the church grounds. The arson motive was confirmed later on.
A Christian mayoral candidate for Lewisham, Maureen Martin, has launched legal action after being sacked for her statement on Christian beliefs about marriage in her election manifesto. She was dismissed by her housing association employer L&Q for "gross misconduct" following three complaints of "hate speech" against her, as she expressed her belief that a marriage between a man and a woman was a "fundamental building block in society" and the "safest environment to raise a child".
Between July 16 and 17, a glazed door of a Catholic Church was destroyed by unknown people. During the previous week, another attack took place in the same church, in which unknown perpetrators destroyed a stained glass window. Both cases were reported to the police who opened an investigation.
Bishop Halko in the city of Pohoda was attacked by a group of drunken young men, who broke bottles, banged on his cabin, and soaked him with water before other people who laughed at the scene. The incident took place during the night and was reported on 17.07.2022. The priest also recalls that the people shouted at him with insults and hung an LGBT Flag on his cottage. It seems that the group attacked the priest after he had expressed his opinion regarding the LGBT movement on TV.
Dymytrij Rudyuk, the Lviv Metropolitan of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OKU), accused the Russian army and the Moscow Patriarch Cyril of being responsible for torturing Ukrainian Orthodox priests. In an interview, he claimed that "the majority of OKU priests had to flee the Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. Those who stayed are often tortured. Five Orthodox priests were shot and a priest-monk was cruelly tortured to death".
During the night between July 15 and 16, unknown perpetrators vandalized Rydboholm's church in Borås with swastikas, penises, and the word 'Hitler'. The security company was the first to notice the graffiti on the church's facade. When Pastor Sven-Erik Olsson arrived at the church, he noticed how much worse the case actually was: "There is graffiti on windows, on doors, flower pots and even on the stone stairs in front of the gate. It's outrageous, it's the whole community's church". The police were alerted and are looking into the case.
On the 15. July during the night, a 60-year-old restaurant chef witnessed how 3 men were vandalizing the St. Augustine Church in the centre of Cagliari and reprimanded the perpetrators to stop throwing bottles at the church. The three men then attacked him, beating him up and spraying pepper spray on him. The victim was taken to the hospital, he had three broken ribs and a chest injury. The police identified one of the perpetrators through the victim`s testimony and surveillance cameras.
The priest of the church of San Giorgio, Don William Maggioni, discovered on the morning of the 11. July that two pyxes, containing hosts inside, were missing from the tabernacle behind the altar. The burglars also forced the tabernacle of the altar of the Madonna open, which was found empty. In addition, the golden crown of St. Valentine was robbed as well. Don William alerted the police who started an investigation to find the perpetrators.
Two free evangelical churches have appealed to the Geneva Court due to the denial of their requests to perform baptisms on public beaches. On July 8, the Swiss canton of Geneva banned baptisms organized by evangelical churches in Lake Geneva, but the same baptisms are allowed in Vaud, an area that covers the northern shore of the Lake. The Swiss Evangelical Alliance wrote in a media release that they were shocked that Geneva, the human rights capital, would take such a "restrictive and exclusionary approach to religious freedom".
Between the 9. and 10. July, unknown vandals broke into the pilgrimage church "Maria Hilf", in the city of Batzhausen, and stole 30 organ pipes and 16 gold-plated candlesticks. According to the police, the damage caused by the burglary amounts to 24,000 euros. Unfortunately, they did not stop here and caused even greater property damages: they broke the church doors open and ripped out the organ pipes, causing damage that adds up to 40,000 euros. It seems like the organ was in fact destroyed, it is unclear if it is possible to repair it or not.
On July 10, unknown people smashed the window pane of St. Stephen's Church. Traces of blood were found at the scene meaning the perpetrators injured themselves by breaking the window. The motive is not clear since nothing was missing from the church. The case was reported to the police who launched an investigation.
Between the morning of July 9 and the morning of the 10th, unknown people broke the ground-level window of St. Michael's Church, causing material damage that amounts to 300 euros. It appears that the frame was kicked with a foot which caused the pane to break. The police was alerted and are now looking for witnesses who might have information on the case.
On the 10th of July, unknown vandals sprayed the entrance door and a wooden shed of a church with two white paint graffiti inscriptions. The property damage caused has not been assessed yet but the police have been alerted and are looking into the case.
During the night of July 10, unknown vandals damaged the facade of the evangelical church in Moers with hateful red tags. The sexton could not make sense of the writings left by the vandals. He believes this act was meant to target the church, although he was "not sure if the perpetrators even knew that this is a Protestant church". The writings included the words "Pontifex" and "F*ck Masonry", among others. The case was reported to the police who handed the investigation over to State Security, due to the possibility of the attack having a political background.
On the 8th of July, two young girls, aged between 12 and 15, vandalized a church located on Innsbruck's Spingeser Strasse. According to the police report, the two "destroyed bibles, candles, and sacrificial box candle jars". They further shattered flower pots, ripped seat cushions from the benches, and threw a statue from a pedestal. The total amount of the damages caused has not been accessed yet, but the case was reported to the police who started an investigation.
On July 8, unknown thieves broke into the Catholic Church of St. Joseph and searched the rooms inside the building. They stole several sacred objects, "including a crucifix, monstrance, and chalice", causing a still unknown amount of property damage. The case was reported to the police who opened an investigation to find the perpetrators.
Between the evening of July 4 and the morning of July 5, unknown vandals poured a kilo of sugar into the Holy Water font of the Church of St. Joseph. The sugar was taken from the pantry with food donations in Lindlar - the baskets had been put up in the Church for a while so donators can place the food there. This has not been the first distasteful prank taking place in the Church of St. Joseph in recent months. Heinz Otto Höher says, even though nothing was stolen "we want to know who is behind it", now considering installing a surveillance system in the church, to avoid the recurrence of similar cases. Nonetheless, a good thing came out of this bad situation: "After it became known in Kirchdorf, we received numerous food donations that more than compensate for the loss of sugar".
The Italian Mario Mauro was appointed the new EU Commissioner for Religious Freedom after the position was vacant for 9 months, ever since the previous Commissioner, Stylianides, resigned. Before Stylianide's appointment, the post was vacant for 10 months, which indicates that it is not a priority for the European Commission. It only attempted to fill the vacancy after some politicians, and other figures pressed the issue.
Unknown thieves stole a historic 17th-century crown from a church in Weikersheim. According to the information provided by the police, the thieves also stole two cable drums from the church. The total amount of the valuables stolen is in the five-digit range. It was the 3rd reported theft at the church only in the month of June and the police "are examining a connection between the crimes". In the previous thefts, the unknown perpetrators stole construction equipment and building materials.
On the 29th of June, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., unknown people entered the church of St. Pantaleon in Walpertshofen and vandalized it. First, they damaged the entrance door of the church and inside tore a tile out of the wall. Then, they ripped out the pages from the hymn and prayer books and scattered them through the church. The vandals continued to damage the church by lighting candles and spreading the wax on the floor and on the pews, in addition to knocking over chairs and flowers. They fled the scene leaving significant property damage behind, which is estimated to amount to 2,000 euros. The case was reported to the police who started an investigation to find the perpetrators.
According to the Leubsdorf police, between June 23 and 28, unknown vandals daubed and sprayed the catholic church building with black paint graffiti and by smearing it with rowan berries. The police were alerted and are looking for witnesses to help them identify the perpetrators.
On the night of the 28th of June, an unknown person attempted to set a fire in the Cathedral of Malaga, by placing flammable liquid in the corners of the old wooden door. Fortunately, it did not produce the outcome desired and did not cause any significant damages thanks to the rapid action of young people who called the emergency services. The only visible damages were on the door jambs, "in which the stone and wood have been blackened". The police opened an investigation and started analyzing the surveillance cameras to find the perpetrator.