Herland Report: The yearly OSCE Hate Crime Report provides an overview of data collected on hate crimes, and of responses by governments and civil society in the 57 OSCE participating States for the previous year.
The OSCE defines a hate crime as “a criminal act committed with a bias motivation.” Hate crimes can involve threats, property damage, assault, murder, or other criminal offenses.
Of the hate incidents reported by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe, the majority were acts of vandalism or destruction at places of worship.
This is a new trend in Europe and deeply worrying, especially since the authorities seem to do very little to stop it. As in 2015, there continued to be abuse and harassment of Christians in refugee accommodations.
Christmas displays, Christian schools and cemeteries were also frequent targets of hate incidents, reports the Observatory.
The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe recently reported 191 hate crimes against Christians in 16 European countries to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) for inclusion in its 2016 hate crimes report. Among these were the following:
The Observatory reported 76 hate crimes in France, including the July murder of Father Jacques Hamel, 84, who died after his throat was slit during an attack on the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray by two armed men.
They entered the building during Mass, and took the priest and a number of other people, including two nuns, hostage.
ISIS reportedly claimed the attack was carried out by two “soldiers” from the group, one of whom was reportedly known to French intelligence services.
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In one of 18 arson attacks in France, the 16th century church Saint-Louis in Fontainebleau was entirely burnt out, images, including that of the baby Jesus, were desecrated, and the ciborium containing consecrated Hosts was stolen.
“The fire was lit at the foot of the most valuable and symbolic goods. So these are people who knew their heritage and religious value,” according to Frédéric Valletoux, the mayor of Fontainebleau.
Because of the significance of this incident, Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve publicly announced his concern about the fire.
In Spain, of the 41 crimes reported by the Observatory, 27 occurred in places of worship.
In one such incident, a Moroccan man admitted setting a fire that destroyed an ancient altarpiece and several images of the Virgin Mary in the church of Fontellas in Navarre on September 8th, the day recognized by Catholics as the Nativity of the Virgin. According to the police, the burning of the Virgin was “strictly for ideological reasons of a religious character.”
A court considered this an Islamist attack and issued a restraining order prohibiting the self-described jihadist from going near any Catholic places of worship.
The man was arrested again a week later for destroying the cross atop the church of Ribaforada.
In October “Naouful K.,” who told authorities he had become radicalized after a trip to Morocco, was expelled from Spain and banned from the Schengen area for a period of 10 years.
In November 2016, Father Lino Hernando was attacked while he was celebrating Mass in the parish church of Nuestra Señora de Covadonga in Madrid by a man who threw him to the ground, kicked and insulted him.
The aggressor also threw consecrated hosts and other worship items from the altar. Police arrested the perpetrator, but details about the man’s motives were not made public.
But churches weren’t the only targets. In another incident, threatening graffiti was found on the walls of a Catholic school (Colegio de San José, Vallecas).
The graffiti incited arson against the school and included phrases such as “You will burn like in ‘36”, a clear reference to the anti-religious murders and anti-religious arson during the Spanish Civil War.
The premeditated murder of a Christian woman in August 2016 at the hands of her self-proclaimed “anti-theist” flat mate was one of 31 hate crimes reported from Germany. “Daniel E.” admitted killing her because of his hatred of all religion.
The judge said, “He killed her as a representative of her religion because he could not kill all believers.” He was sentenced to life in prison in January 2017.
In one of the worst examples of anti-Christian bias based on “cultural differences,” as defined by the OSCE, the Observatory reported the December 20th attack on the Christmas market near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in West Berlin, which left 12 dead and more than 50 injured.
Anis Amri, a 24-year-old Tunisian man, stole a truck and intentionally drove it into the crowded market. ISIS claimed responsibility, and the driver pledged allegiance to ISIS, calling on his “Muslim brothers everywhere… Those in Europe, kill the crusader pigs.”
“Crusaders” refers to Christians in ISIS rhetoric. While in the Italian prison in Sicily, Anis Amri threatened one of his fellow prisoners: “You are Christian and I will cut your head off,” according to a media report, demonstrating the attacker’s pre-existing bias against Christians.
Attacks on Christian symbols in Germany appear to be on the rise. From May to August 2016, four wooden mountain summit crosses in the Bad Tölz-Wolfrashausen region were destroyed by unknown perpetrators using an ax.
In one such incident, witnesses with binoculars saw a man chop down the summit cross at Prinzkopf.
One witness said, “there is no question that this was an act against Christianity.”
In November, the summit cross on top of the 2,100-meter-high mountain “Schafreuter” on the Austrian-German border, erected in October to replace the cross destroyed in August, was again chopped by unknown perpetrators.
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And police in the Coesfeld region investigated the destruction of dozens of Christian statues of holy figures from October to December 2016. One report said “not a day goes by without an attack on a statue.
Police suspected an anti-religious motive and said the vandalism was fueled by a “lust for destruction.” Already in 2017, six statues were vandalized from March 22 to 29, bringing the total number of incidents to 62 since the end of October 2016.
The majority of the 14 hate crimes in Italy, as reported by the Observatory, involved damage to property.
In one striking case, police arrested a 39-year-old Ghanaian man suspected of attacking several churches in Rome over the previous two days in early October. According to reports, on the evening of September 30th, a man damaged a statue in the church of San Martino ai Monti and fled.
Shortly afterwards, the same man entered the Basilica of Santa Prassede and “smash[ed] everything he found, especially statues and candlesticks, right before a group of parishioners who were quite scared.
The two devotional statues of Saint Anthony of Padua and Saint Prassede were heavily damaged.” Later, he is alleged to have entered the Church of San Martino ai Monti, where he smashed a devotional statue of the Madonna and Child.
On the morning of October 1st, two further attacks occurred in the Basilicas of San Giovanni de’ Fiorentini and San Vitale. Statues, candlesticks, crucifixes were smashed. According to a witness, “the perpetrator said: “it was not right that we worshipped in this way.”
In Belgium, two of the four hate crimes reported by the Observatory were perpetrated by radical Islamists. In August, Souhaib Amaouch, the 17 year old son of radical imam El Alami Amaouch, was filmed declaring in Arabic, “Oh Allah, destroy the odious Christians. Oh Allah kill them all.”
The video shown on a French website depicts the teen saying, “Don’t spare any of them.” He was arrested in Verviers along with his parents on August 21st. A judge ordered him to be placed for three months in a youth protection institution.
In the United Kingdom, there were three hate crimes reported by the Observatory. In one such case, a Christian family was forced to flee their home under armed police guard amid fears for their safety after suffering what they say is eight years of persecution for converting from Islam to Christianity.
Nissar Hussain left Islam in 1996 and has since faced aggressive behavior and even violence from members of the Muslim community in Bradford, where he lived.
The Hussains said police told them there was a credible threat to their lives. This was the second time the Hussains have had to move to flee harassment and assaults. Read more.