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.