Christian sites in Europe face 'tremendous' rise in vandalism
Cases of vandalism against Christian sites are on the rise across Europe, a new report has warned.
The report was compiled by the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe.
It details instances of intolerance towards Christians throughout 2013, including in the areas of law, politics, and the media.
The report warns of a "tremendous" rise in cases of vandalism across European Christian sites in the last year.
In 2013, there were 133 reported cases of vandalism and 241 cases of intolerance against Christians.
Examples include the desecration of the St Cyriac Church in Duren, Germany, where the damage was so bad it was declared unfit for service.
The priest of Santa Chantal Church, in Dijon, was shocked to discover excrement behind the altar and smeared into a prayer book. The desecration led to the priest deciding he could no longer keep the church open during the day.
In Italy, inverted crosses and the number '666' were scrawled on two doors of a church in Ubrino Duomo, while in Vigasio, two girls spray painted a smiling devil alongside the words "hates the Vatican".
The report recorded numerous instances of arson attacks and church items being stolen or damaged.
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Christians opposed to abortion and clergy with traditional views on sexuality are among those who have been violently attacked in the past year.
In Belgium, an elderly lady died in hospital 10 days after suffering severe head wounds in an attack inside the church of Saint-Remacle in Marche-en-Famenne.
Social media is identified as a "new playground of intolerance" against Christians, while concerns are also raised over limits on freedom of speech, rights to conscientious objection, equality, freedom of assembly, and parental rights in sex education.
In December last year, Femen France posted a message to its Facebook page supporting "cancelling the birth of Jesus" as a protest against Christian pro-life campaigns. The post was accompanied by a photo of a woman pretending to be Mary having an abortion in front of the cathedral in Madrid.
Also mentioned in the report are the cases of British Airways worker Nadia Eweida, nurse Shirley Chaplin, relationships counsellor Gary McFarlane, and registrar Lillian Ladele who all faced challenges in the workplace over their Christian beliefs. Only Eweida's legal challenge was successful.
Dr Gudrun Kugler, director of the Observatory, said: "The increasingly secular society in Europe has less and less space for Christianity.
"Some governments and players of civil society seek to exclude instead of to accommodate. Countless cases of intolerance against Christians are reported to us. By researching, documenting and publishing these cases we hope to create an awareness which is a first step towards a remedy."