Letters to the Editor

Increased intolerance of Christians in Christian countries

Thursday, October 18, 2012    

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Dear Editor

"The bishops of Europe are especially aware of the manifestations of discrimination, and intolerance of religion confirm that some values and rights which are fundamental to Europe are far from reality in some countries on the continent," said Catholic Bishop András Veres of Szombathely, Hungary, in a comment on a 2011 report in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano on discrimination against religion in Europe. "To live and give testimony to one's religious creed within respect for the liberty and sentiments of others will benefit everyone, believers and unbelievers, Christian and non-Christians," the report said.

According to the Vatican study, Europe is witnessing more and more cases of intolerance and discrimination directed at Christians. At the same time, the growing interest on the part of the media has given a voice to the otherwise anonymous cases of people now brought to international attention. Statistics show the size of the problem: of 74 per cent of those surveyed in the United Kingdom, we see that there is more discrimination directed at Christians than people of other faiths. The study indicates that 84 per cent of acts of vandalism reported in France are committed against Christian places of worship. In Scotland, 95 per cent of the anti-religious violence is directed against Christians. The report seeks to be an invitation to all Christians who have experienced any form of discrimination or intolerance because of confessional status to come out of anonymity and have courage: belief in God should not be perceived as a flaw or a sign of weakness.

The study defines acts of intolerance and discrimination against Christians into various categories:

* Freedom of religion

* Freedom of expression

* Freedom of conscience

* Discriminatory policies

* Exclusion of Christians from public and social life

* Repression of religious symbols

* Insults, defamation and negative stereotypes

* Acts of hatred

* Vandalism

* Profanity

* Hate crimes committed against individual Christians

The study also includes those cases in which Pope Benedict XVI was accused of "crimes against humanity" for professing the doctrine of the Catholic Church regarding sexual morality.

The report also cites episodes of intimidation against professionals who objected against issues such as abortion and euthanasia. One example was that of a pharmacy in Berlin, Germany, which was assaulted by vandals when it did not sell morning-after pills because of Catholic beliefs. The report noted that there are numerous cases of "vandalism and profanity against churches, places of worship and sacred objects" in Austria, France, Germany and Spain, besides the murder of a Catholic bishop in Turkey.

The study recommended that Europe's governments should adhere to absolute respect for fundamental freedoms and to recognise and condemn intolerance and discrimination against Christians while ensuring their free participation in public life. The EU was asked to adopt similar measures and to respect the autonomy of the churches, as established by the Lisbon Treaty.

During his visit to the United Kingdom, Pope Benedict XVI noted that discrimination against Christians is a serious problem in Europe. "I can't but manifest my concern regarding the increased marginalisation of religion, especially Christianity, which is occurring in some places, even in nations that strongly emphasise tolerance. There are those who say that the voice of religion should be silenced, or at least relegated to the merely private sphere," he affirmed.

Clemente Ferrer

Madrid, Spain

clementeferrer3@gmail.com

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