Report warns of 'increasing anti-Christian hostility' in France

(Photo: Unsplash/Paul Dufour)

A religious rights organisation has called on France's public officials to do more to stem attacks on churches and Christian monuments. 

A new report by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe documents a wave of assaults on Christian sites across France in the past few months. 

The report reveals that in the first 11 days of February, there were 10 recorded attacks on churches in France. 

They include arson and vandalism at a Catholic cathedral in Lavaur and acts of vandalism at three parish churches in the Vendee region where statues and windows were damaged. 

Statues were also destroyed at St Nicolas de Houilles Church, in Yvelines, which has been attacked three times, while at the nearby church of St Nicolas de Maisons-Lafitte, a tabernacle was thrown onto the ground. 

Earlier this month, the Bishop of Nimes, Robert Wattebled said church leaders were now faced with 'practical questions' on how to keep their churches open without 'excessive risks of vandalism' after excrement was used to desecrate a tabernacle at the city's Notre-Dame-des-Enfants Church on February 5, the Catholic News Service reports.

Despite the spate of assaults, the observatory said that the nation's leaders are not doing enough to help protect churches from attacks and that the media too are paying 'little attention'. 

The organisation fears that the incidents are a sign of 'increasing anti-Christian hostility' in the country.  It is trying to increase awareness of the threat to French churches while at the same time calling on public officials to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.

'France is of particular concern now — while anti-Christian attacks are better documented here than in other European countries, the media pays little attention to them,' said Ellen Fantini, executive director of the observatory. 

'While the government recognises Christians and Christian sites are being targeted, they don't seem high on the agenda when it comes to the political will to provide protection.'

She continued: 'We join local officials and churches in condemning these senseless and disturbing acts.

'It is our sincere hope that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that awareness of increasing anti-Christian hostility in France reaches the public square.'