May Newsletter: Official figures for France; Persecuted Christians Worldwide; Attack in Rome

Posted on: May 9, 2019

Country: France; International; Italy; Scotland/UK

May 9, 2019

Dear Readers,

I have spoken with so many journalists recently -- from both Christian and secular media outlets --  who want to learn more about the vandalism and attacks on Christian sites in France and whether it has gotten worse. The short answer is yes, and below you can read more about this.

See examples of the Observatory in the news here.

As I speak to the media about the work of the Observatory, I have emphasized that while many of the incidents we report involve destruction of Christian sites, it is important to note that these are visible symptoms, but are not the only problem Christians face in Europe. Christians in Europe also face discrimination and hostility, and sometimes violence, based on their religious beliefs, as well as interference with their rights of conscience, association, and expression. 

In this newsletter, we have covered a range of topics: from statistics and initiatives in France, to the worldwide persecution of Christians, to a violent attack on a Christian in Rome, and finally the no-platforming of a pro-life student group.

In our next newsletter, we will provide detailed information about the data we just submitted to be included in the 2018 OSCE/ODIHR hate crime report. 

To see all of our cases, please visit our website.

Feel free to share our newsletters widely in your networks. 

Thank you,

Ellen Fantini
Executive Director




Since our February newsletter about ongoing vandalism of churches in France, we have been asked frequently whether the phenomenon of attacks on Christian sites has indeed increased. The answer is yes.

Here are some facts and figures:
  • 2018Official figures for 2018 from the French Ministry of the Interior indicate that there were 1063 "anti-Christian" recorded acts (1038 in 2017). The Ministry did not specify what those "acts" were. When asked by a fact-checking website, it responded that it did not want to provide details "to prevent them from being manipulated." It went on to say that of the 1063 cases, about 100 were violent acts against people, and the rest were directed toward Christian sites (churches and cemeteries).
  • 2017: In its press release for 2017 figures, the Ministry said there had been 878 attacks on Christian sites. This figure is included in the 1038 "anti-Christian" acts for the year. 
  • 2016: In its press release for 2016 figures, the Ministry said there had been 949 attacks on Christian sites, a 17.4% increase from 2015 (808).
  • 2014: Le Figaro reported that 673 Christian sites had been attacked, according to the Interior Ministry.
  • In 2012, in response to a National Assembly question, the Ministry reported the statistics from 2008 - 2012, indicating an increase from 275 in 2008 to 543 in 2012.
These numbers tell us that in the ten years from 2008 to 2018, there was an increase of about 250% in attacks on Christian sites, according to French government figures. 

The Observatoire de la Christianophobie in France reports that the first three months of 2019 have been the worst since they began collecting information and that compared to the first quarter of 2018, the first quarter of 2019 saw a 53% increase in incidents.


The numbers tell us something, but not enough, about the phenomenon. And unfortunately, the lack of information can lead to speculation about who and what is behind these incidents. This is why we applaud the efforts of French politician Deputy Valérie Boyer to learn more. She submitted a question to the Ministry of the Interior to ask for detailed information about the anti-Christian acts reported in 2018. She also wrote to the Prime Minister to express concern about the recent desecration of Christian sites. Finally, she and others havetabled a Resolution demanding the creation of a commission of inquiry into the desecration of Christian sites in France. 


We just learned about a praiseworthy initiative in France called Protège ton église, a Facebook group to recruit volunteers to peacefully stand guard in front of churches in cities across France. Read an interview with one of the founders here (in French).



On May 2nd the findings of an interim report of an Independent Review into the global persecution of Christians, ordered by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, were released. The review, led by the Bishop of Truro, the Right Reverend Philip Mounstephen, found that the persecution of Christians in parts of the world is at near "genocide" levels.

“The inconvenient truth,” the report finds, is “that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians.”

The report estimated that one in three people suffer from religious persecution and Christians were the most persecuted religious group.

"Evidence shows not only the geographic spread of anti-Christian persecution, but also its increasing severity. In some regions, the level and nature of persecution is arguably coming close to meeting the international definition of genocide, according to that adopted by the UN.... The main impact of such genocidal acts against Christians is exodus. Christianity now faces the possibility of being wiped-out in parts of the Middle East where its roots go back furthest," the report said. 

The goal of the Independent Review is to map the extent and nature of the phenomenon of persecution of Christians, to assess the quality of the response of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and to make recommendations for changes in both policy and practice. The final report is due to be released in June.

Read the full report here.




In April, a month before the launch of the interim report described above, the Observatory's Executive Director attended a conference on "Invisible Victims and Religious Freedom." Lord David Alton of Liverpool addressed the audience of a hundred journalists, academics, politicians, aid workers, priests and members of the public. Convened by The Danube Institute and The New Culture Forum, the goal was both to inform the audience about the persecution and brutality Christians face in countries across the Middle East, Africa, and much of Asia, but also point to the British Aid many of these countries receive.

Lord Alton told the audience how Article 18 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, is being ignored in every corner of the world, while liberal voices remain strangely silent. For example, "Discrimination is not a word that does justice to the systematic persecution of Christians in Pakistan," he said, mentioning the £383,000 a day in British aid Pakistan receives. "Instead of justice, we too often salve our consciences and boast of the money we send."

Of the top twenty beneficiaries of UK aid, nine – Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Sudan, Yemen, Syrian, Nigeria, Iraq and Burma – are on Open Doors’ list of the twenty worst countries for religious persecution. They receive between them £2,036 million a year, 54% of the total for the top twenty recipients.

And he said here in Europe, "Ignorance can lead to absurd, unjust and discriminatory asylum decisions – like a recent Home Office refusal of an Iranian convert who was told by an official that Christianity was a religion of violence and if he was a true convert he should 'trust God' and go back to Iran – and face the death penalty for apostasy."

"It is a moral outrage that whole swathes of humanity are being murdered, terrorised, victimised, intimidated, deprived of their belongings and driven from their homes, simply because of the way they worship God or practise their faith.

It is against this backdrop that we must insist on the importance of religious literacy as a competence; encourage Government departments to produce strategies, provide adequate resources, to make religious literacy training available for their staff; and recognise the crossover between freedom of religion and belief and a nation’s prosperity and stability.

And, from the comforts of our fragile liberal democracies, we can also learn a lot – and even be inspired – by the suffering of those denied this foundational freedom."

Read the entire speech here.




On April 20th, a 44-year-old Georgian man was stabbed in the neck in front of Rome's Termini Station by a Moroccan man after a dispute about religion on a bus.

According to reports, after the victim got off the bus at Termini Station, the aggressor followed him and after noticing the crucifix necklace he was wearing, called the Georgian man a "Italian Catholic Sh*t"and tried to cut his throat with a kitchen knife.

The Moroccan man was arrested by police and charged with attempted murder with religious hatred as an aggravating factor.

Read more here.





On April 12, 2019, the Aberdeen Life Ethics Society filed suit against both the University of Aberdeen and the University's Societies Union (AUSA) after its affiliation application was denied last year. It asked the court to declare that the AUSA's policy of de-platforming pro-life student societies constitutes unlawful discrimination and a violation of equality rights protected by UK law.

AUSA's policy is to give “no funding, facilitation, or platform” to any pro-life group and forbids the “unreasonable display” of pro-life material on campus.

Without official affiliation, Aberdeen Life Ethics Society cannot enjoy the benefits of other affiliated groups including the use of campus facilities, a presence at freshers week, or the right to apply for financial grants.

Aberdeen Life Ethics Society Spokesman Alex Mason said: “The pro-life position may be an unpopular minority opinion on this campus, but it is fully protected by law. The right to speak freely must be equally applied to all students, not just those who already agree with the majority opinion.”

"Universities should foster free debate and discussion over important ethical issues like abortion. Unfortunately, there is a lot of social pressure on young people to conform to the pro-abortion viewpoint. For many of us, our pro-life beliefs were forged from our understanding of gestational science, as well as our Christian faith. The ability to express these beliefs must be protected."

The challenge by Aberdeen Life Ethics Society comes shortly after a tide of victories for other Scottish pro-life groups. In March of 2019, Glasgow Students’ Union was forced to admit that refusing Glasgow Life Society permission to affiliate was a breach of equality law and discriminated against pro-life students. Similarly, in 2018, Strathclyde University pro-life group, Strathclyde Students for Life, won their right to officially affiliate after challenging the universities ‘no platform’ policy.

Read more here.


Have you heard or read about an incident in Europe negatively affecting Christians or Christian buildings, symbols, or institutions? Have you been assaulted, threatened, or discriminated against because of your Christian faith? Have you been verbally harassed and silenced when stating a Christian position?

Please tell us your story or send us a link. You can email us here, or click REPORT A CASE on our website.

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