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Bias against Christians and members of other religions

Bias against individuals on the basis of religion can take various forms. The extent and nature of attacks motivated by bias against a particular religion are influenced by a number of factors, including the minority or majority status of that religion in a given territory. Successive ODIHR hate crime reports have indicated that graffiti and vandalism against places of worship, the desecration of cemeteries and arson attacks against churches are some of the more common types of crimes motivated by bias against Christians and members of other religions.

Beginning in 2004, a number of OSCE ministerial council decisions and declarations have included specific commitments on and references to the importance of combating prejudice, intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.

Some participating States disaggregate data on anti-religious hate crime into sub-categories, such as "non-denominational", "Catholic", "Protestant", "other religions", or "Jehovah's witnesses". The Holy See also collects information on hate incidents based on bias against Christians through its network of regional representatives. This information is submitted by ODIHR to authorities in the respective participating States for verification and information on the status of investigation and of hate motive.

OSCE participating States collect varying types of information, which is then reported and presented under the heading of this bias motivation. For some states, the number of cases reported here may cover all hate crimes committed with an anti-religious bias (including anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim). In other cases, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim hate crimes are reported under specific bias categories and, thus not included in the overall figure for crimes committed with an anti-religious bias. Some participating States report only crimes committed against Christians. As a consequence of these differences, the data presented under this bias category require caution, as comparison based on numbers of cases alone may not be accurate.

ODIHR | TANDIS



SELECT YEAR

Reports

Overview of incidents reported by civil society

Attacks Against People Attacks Against Property Total
Violent Attacks Threats
120 25 321 466

Albania

The Holy See reported one case of arson against a church, motivated by anti-Christian bias.

Austria

Jehovah's Witnesses – Austria reported two incidents of graffiti targeting places of worship.

The Holy See reported two incidents of theft, in which communion bread was stolen from churches. The authorities reported back that both incidents were under investigation, but a bias motive was not identified in either of the cases.

Belgium

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC) reported three incidents of vandalism to churches, one of which involved graffiti.

The Holy See and the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe reported the case of a bias-motivated murder of an elderly woman in a church. Belgian authorities confirmed that the case is under prosecution and that no bias motive had been registered.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Interreligious Council in Bosnia-Herzegovina reported three incidents of vandalism targeting Orthodox churches, including one which involved graffiti; and one desecration of an Orthodox cemetery, involving graffiti on graves.

The OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina reported 21 incidents targeting Christian sites, such as churches and cemeteries, including an incident of graffiti on an Adventist church and the desecration of an Orthodox and a Catholic cemeteries.

The Holy See reported an incident of vandalism in a Catholic cemetery and one incident of graffiti on a church under construction. The authorities reported back that bias motivation was not established in either of the incidents.

Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee reported two incidents of physical assaults on Jehovah's Witnesses.

Jehovah's Witnesses – Bulgaria reported three physical assaults, including one involving the use of a weapon; and one incident of damage to property.

Canada

The Holy See reported two incidents of theft that also involved the desecration of liturgical objects and communion bread; five incidents of vandalism, three of which involved graffiti on church buildings; one incident of damage to church property; and one incident of the desecration of graves.The Canadian authorities reported that they were not able to verify these incidents due to personal data protection regulations.

Czech Republic

The authorities recorded one physical assault motivated by bias against religion and one case of incitement to violence against Christians.

Denmark

Official figures recorded 5 hate crimes targeting Christians.

Finland

Finland reported 171 crimes committed with an anti-religious bias.

France

Jehovah’s Witnesses – France reported four physical assaults; four incidents of damage to property against places of worship; 12 incidents vandalism, including nine with graffiti; two incidents of the desecration of graves; and one threat.

The Observatory of Christianophobia (OC) reported one physical assault and 29 thefts, nine of which were also reported by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC). The OC further reported one robbery and one attempted robbery; nine incidents of damage to property; one attempted arson attack; 22 cases of vandalism, of which two were also reported on by the OIDC; nine desecrations and 12 cases of hacking targeting the websites of dioceses, parishes and catholic associations, one of which also reported on by the OIDC.

The OIDC reported a physical attack on Christian refugees, which was carried out by a group using a knife and resulted in the death of a victim; two thefts; four incidents of vandalism; and the desecration of a grave.

The Holy See reported one incident of physical assault, which was also reported by the Observatory of Christianophobia (OC). The Holy See also reported 22 incidents of vandalism, including 21 reported by the OC and eight reported by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC); seven incidents of graffiti, six of which were also reported by the OC and two also reported by the OIDC.

The Holy See reported an additional 27 thefts, 21 of which were reported by the OC and five reported by the OIDC; five incidents of the desecration of churches, of which the OC reported on four and the OIDC one; 30 incidents of the desecration of graves, including five reported by the OIDC; two incidents of damage to property; 15 incidents of actual or attempted arson, of which the OC reported 14 and the OIDC six; one threat; and four incidents of hacking.

Georgia

Official figures recorded 22 crimes motivated by anti-religious bias without differentiation by faith.

The Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF), Jehovah's Witnesses – Georgia and the Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center (EMC) reported one physical assault on Jehovah's Witnesses carried out by a group. The HBF and the EMC reported an additional physical assault that involved damage to property; and two threats. The HBF, the EMC and the UNHCR reported two incidents of damage to property targeting Jehovah Witnesses’ places of worship.

Jehovah's Witnesses – Georgia reported 11 physical assaults, including one in which stones were thrown at the victims; two threats; two burglaries; seven cases of damage to property; and three incidents of vandalism.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported 11 incidents of physical assault; 16 incidents of damage to property; and four incidents of thefts. All 11 incidents targeted Jehovah's Witnesses.

Germany

Official figures recorded 339 crimes based on bias against religion.

Jehovah's Witnesses – Germany reported a physical assault on a man; one threat that also caused damage to the victim's vehicle; two incidents of damage to property, including one that involved the use of an air-gun and one targeting a place of worship; and six incidents of graffiti on places of worship.

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC) reported five physical assaults, including one in which a knife was used and another three carried out by a group; two threats, including one in which a statue was damaged and witnesses threatened; three arson attacks on churches and a Christian organization office; one incident of damage to a church; and five incidents of vandalism that targeted church premises.

Greece

Jehovah's Witnesses – Greece reported two incidents of vandalism targeting places of worship.

Italy

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC) reported a physical assault on soldiers protecting a cathedral, one incident of damage to church property, three incidents of vandalism and the desecration of a church.

Jehovah’s Witnesses – Italy reported one incident of damage to a place of worship, one case of vandalism and one threat.

The Holy See reported two incidents of the desecration of graves; six incidents of theft in churches; one incident of the desecration of communion bread; one burglary involving vandalism; and five incidents of vandalism, three of which involved graffiti on a Catholic church, one of which was also reported by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC).

Kazakhstan

Jehovah's Witnesses – Kazakhstan reported three physical assaults and one incident of damage to the home of a community member.

Kyrgyzstan

Jehovah's Witnesses – Kyrgyzstan reported one incident of physical assault committed by a group during a raid on a religious assembly, causing serious injuries.

Liechtenstein

The Holy See reported the desecration of a church. The Liechtenstein authorities reported that the case was prosecuted as a hate crime.

Netherlands

Official figures recorded 462 anti-religious hate crimes. The figures include cases of hate speech and discrimination.

Poland

The Ministry of the Interior recorded 12 hate crimes motivated by anti-Christian bias.

The Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture, the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe and the European Centre for Democracy Development reported an incident in which a Catholic church was vandalized with graffiti. The Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture reported ten additional cases of vandalism, one of which involved graffiti on a church; five thefts, and four incidents of the desecration of churches. The Never Again Association reported one additional incident of vandalism.

Jehovah's Witnesses – Poland reported two incidents in which graffiti were sprayed on places of worship.

The Holy See reported two physical assaults on Catholic priests, one of which involved the theft of parish property. The Holy See also reported one burglary in a church, one incident of vandalism and two incidents of the desecration of places of worship. The Polish authorities reported back that in one of the desecration cases, a perpetrator was charged with a hate crime, whereas no bias motivation could be confirmed in the other incidents.

Romania

Jehovah's Witnesses – Romania reported three physical assaults, targeting two women and a blind man, respectively.

Russian Federation

The SOVA Centre for Information and Analysis and Jehovah’s Witnesses – Russia reported ten physical assaults, including four involving weapons; and one case of vandalism.

SOVA also reported eight physical assaults, 15 incidents of vandalism, two arson attacks, two threats and two cases of damage to property. Jehovah’s Witnesses – Russia additionally reported 18 physical assaults, two involving weapons and one carried out by a group; one robbery; five threats; two arson attacks; one burglary; seven cases of damage to property; and eight cases of vandalism, two of which involved graffiti.

Serbia

The Regional Centre for Minorities (RCM) reported an incident in which an Orthodox church was damaged, and the desecration of a grave.

Spain

Official figures recorded 70 hate crimes motivated by bias against religion.

The Observatory for Freedom of Religion and Conscience reported two physical assaults; one theft; nine incidents of the desecration of graves, including four that involved theft; one arson attack on a church; one attempted arson attack, also targeting a church; one incident of damage to property; and 12 incidents of graffiti.

The Observatory for Freedom of Religion and Conscience and the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC) reported five incidents of vandalism and three incidents of graffiti.

The OIDC reported one theft from a church, in which communion bread was desecrated, one incident of graffiti on a church, and one incident of the desecration of graves.

Sweden

Official figures recorded 645 anti-religious hate crimes, of which 354 were motivated by bias against Christians.

Switzerland

Jehovah's Witnesses – Switzerland reported one incident of physical assault. The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC) reported three incidents of vandalism, two of which involved graffiti.

The Holy See reported two incidents of vandalism of Catholic churches.

Tajikistan

Jehovah's Witnesses –Tajikistan reported one incident of a physical assault on two women.

Turkey

The Holy See and the Association of Protestant Churches reported two physical assaults, including one in which shots were fired at a Baptist pastor; 23 incidents of threats; and four incidents of vandalism. The authorities reported back that investigations were on-going in some of the cases, whereas no information was available for other cases as the victims and incidents could not be identified based on the reported information. No bias motivation was recorded for any of the incidents.

Turkmenistan

Jehovah's Witnesses – Turkmenistan reported five physical assaults.

Ukraine

Official figures recorded 94 crimes motivated by anti-religious bias.

The European Centre for Democracy Development reported two physical assaults carried out by groups in altercations on church premises, and three arson attacks on churches.

The Congress of National Communities of Ukraine (CNCU) and the European Centre for Democracy Development reported one attempted arson attack on a church, and the CNCU reported an attempted arson attack on the same church. The Research Institute of Social Initiatives Ukraine reported one further arson attack on a church.

Jehovah’s Witnesses – Ukraine reported 21 physical assaults, eight threats, on incident of vandalism and two incidents of graffiti.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported four physical assaults located in territories that are not controlled by the government of Ukraine. Jehovah’s Witnesses – Ukraine also reported two physical assaults, one burglary, one robbery and one incident of threat located in territories that are not controlled by the government of Ukraine.

The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC) reported the murders of a priest and a nun of the Orthodox Church; and three thefts targeting a church, followed by an attempt to set it alight.

The OIDC also reported the kidnapping of an evangelical pastor in territories that are not under the control of the Ukrainian authorities.

United Kingdom

Official figures recorded 1,055 crimes based on bias against religion in England and Wales.

The Observatory of Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe (OIDC) reported one physical assault and one incident of damage to a church

United States of America

Official figures recorded 174 hate crimes against Christians and 184 other anti-religious offences.

The Ephesus Initiative reported four arson attacks; eight incidents of damage to property; 24 incidents of vandalism, most of which involved graffiti; and five incidents of the desecration of graves.

Uzbekistan

Jehovah's Witnesses – Uzbekistan reported three incidents in which women were beaten.

OSCE Region

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo (OMiK) reported that the Kosovo Police recorded 99 cases affecting religious and cultural heritage sites. These included 61 cases of theft, 17 cases of property damage, 12 cases of the desecration of cemeteries, one case of graffiti and one case of threats. Targets included 38 Serbian Orthodox sites, 52 Muslim sites, six Catholic sites and three unspecified sites.

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo reported a further eight cases of vandalism, targeting Serbian Orthodox churches; one case of damage to property; and three incidents of the desecration of graves, including two at a Catholic cemetery.


Developments

OSCE Region

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a number of resolutions on hate crime issues, including Resolution 2069 on recognizing and preventing neo-racism, which recommends that hate crime legislation include the protected characteristics of race, colour, ethnicity, language, religion, disability, migrant status, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. PACE also recognized the issue of under-reporting by calling for more systematic reporting of hate crimes.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a number of resolutions dealing with hate crime issues, including Resolution 2036, on tackling intolerance and discrimination in Europe with a special focus on Christians, which highlights the importance of removing impunity by carrying out effective investigations into all cases of bias-motivated violence.