Note: This is a Real Clear Investigation’s article, which published on July, 10, 2019. The news outlet granted SaraACarter.com permission to reprint the article in full.
When fire ravaged the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris last April, many Americans were surprised to hear speculation that the blaze might be tied to a wave of anti-Christian attacks in France and across Europe. It wasn’t — but a wave of anti-Christian attacks? That was news to many.
As Richard Bernstein reports for RealClearInvestigations, the violence is all too real and at record levels. And those raising alarms have to contend not just with what they call rising Christianophobia but the near-silence of politicians and major media outlets in the face of it.
Reporting from southwestern France, Bernstein, a former Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, tells a story of anti-Christian bias, secular ambivalence, and more. It’s a textured story of populism, evolving national identity and, not least, immigration, colliding with the church’s declining authority, shown not just by clerical sex scandals but empty pews.
For the violence, the headline figures and trend lines are stark. Anti-Christian attacks have quadrupled since 2008:
- The French police in 2018 recorded 129 thefts and 877 acts of vandalism at Catholic sites – mostly churches and cemeteries – and there has been no respite this year. The Conference of French Bishops reported 228 “violent anti-Christian acts” in France in the first three months of 2019 alone, taking place in every region of the country – 45 in the Southwest, 20 in the area along the English Channel, 24 in Brittany.
- The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians, based in Vienna, documented 275 anti-Christian incidents in Europe in 2017, up from 250 the year before.
Yet calling these attacks hate crimes, meaning crimes aimed at intimidating Christians, is problematic, Bernstein reports. Most seem more like acts of vandalism:
- Few have been directed against individuals; about 60% of incidents involved graffiti – satanic inscriptions, anarchist symbols, swastikas, or nationalist or neo-Nazi slogans.
- Few of the perpetrators have been arrested, but those who have been are mostly teenagers, the homeless and mentally ill individuals unaffiliated with recognized hate groups.
Pierre Manent, a French political, told Bernstein the rise in attacks may be explained in part by a mundane fact: “vandalism is drawn to Christian sites because they’re less defended and present little risk.”
But Manent also said the attacks reflect the Church’s loss of moral authority and thus are part of a more generalized “crisis of the church.”
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