|Freedom of religion|
Anti-Christian sentiment is an opposition or objection to Christians, the Christian religion, or its practice. Anti-Christian sentiment is sometimes referred to as Christophobia or Christianophobia, although these names actually encompass "every form of discrimination and intolerance against Christians", according to Council of European Episcopal Conferences (CCEE).
This article treats the subject as distinct from a general opposition to religion.
- 1 Anti-Christian expressions
- 2 Examples of anti-Christian sentiment in politics and culture
- 2.1 Middle East
- 2.2 Europe
- 2.3 Africa
- 2.4 Americas
- 2.5 United States of America
- 2.6 Asia
- 3 See also
- 4 References
- 5 Further reading
- 6 External links
The vandalism or defacement of Christian symbols or property is one form of the expression of anti-Christian sentiment. If the defaced or vandalized object is considered holy by Christians, such as the Bible, the Cross, or an image of Christ or a saint, the case becomes that of desecration. Such destruction may also be illegal if it violates property rights or hate crime laws. Arson directed at Christian meeting places or churches is often considered a hate crime. However, churches may also be targeted for reasons unrelated to anti-Christian sentiment, especially racism (against the congregants).
According to the Crown, the burning of a church in Minnedosa, Manitoba was committed by two fans of National Socialist black metal music with anti-Christian themes. Vandals stole a wooden statue of Virgin Mary, from the Saint Albert the Great Parish of Calgary, Canada in August 2008 detached her hands, tried to incinerate it, and threw into a ditch along the nearby 22x Highway. In 2010, vandals daubed graffiti and attempted to burn down the White Church of Baildon, West Yorkshire, marking the church with the sign of the pentagram and scrawling anti-Christian graffiti upon it.
Some fans of black metal and witch house music declare open hatred of Christianity. Headliners of the black metal genre have claimed responsibility for inspiring (if not necessarily perpetrating) over fifty arsons directed at Christian churches in Norway from 1992 to 1996. The most notable church was Norway's Fantoft Stave Church, which the police believed was destroyed by the one-man band Burzum, Varg Vikernes, also known as "Count Grishnackh".
Examples of anti-Christian sentiment in politics and culture
Fiorello Provera of the European Parliament called the Middle East "the most dangerous place for Christians to live" and cited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who blamed the international community for failing to deal with what she considers a war against Christians in the Muslim world.
According Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, in the hundred years leading up to 2010 the Middle East's Christian population dwindled from 20% to less than 5%. Oren argues that with the exception of Israel, Christians in the Middle East have endured severe political and cultural hardships: in Egypt, Muslim extremists have subjected Coptic Christians to beatings and massacres, resulting in the exodus of 200,000 Copts from their homes; in Iraq, 1,000 Christians were killed in Baghdad between the years 2003 and 2012 and 70 churches in the country were burned; in Iran, converts to Christianity face the death penalty and in 2012 Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani was sentenced to death; in Saudi Arabia, private Christian prayer is against the law; in the Gaza Strip, half of the Palestinian Christian population has fled since Hamas seized power in 2007 and Gazan law forbids public displays of crucifixes; in the West Bank, the Christian population has been reduced from 15% to less than 2%.
In Egypt, the government does not recognize religious conversions from Islam to Christianity. Since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Egypt's Coptic Christians have been the target of increasing opposition and discrimination. In 2011, anti-Christian activity in Egypt included church burnings, protests against the appointment of a Coptic Christian governor in Qena, and deadly confrontations with the Egyptian army. On television Islamists referred to Christians as heretics and said they should be made to pay the jizya tax. A Coptic priest accused Islamists in the country of massacring uninfected pigs predominantly owned by Copts during a swine flu scare: "They killed these innocent pigs just because they thought they violated their religion in some way." In October 2011 a draft resolution passed by the European Parliament accused Egypt of persecuting the country's Christian population. By mid-2012 10,000 Christians had fled the country.
The consolidation of power in the hands of Shiite Islamists in Iraq since the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime has been to the detriment of Iraq's Christian communities. Friction between rival sects in Iraq has frequently resulted in violence being directed against Christians in the country. Consequently, there has been a flight of Christians from some areas to Europe and to the United States. Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled Iraq, such that the Christian population, which may have been as high as 1.4 million prior to the Iraq War, has dropped to 500,000, with numbers continuing to decline. Between 2003 and 2012 more than 70 churches were bombed. In 2007 Al Qaeda militants killed a young priest in Mosul, and in 2010 terrorists massacred 53 Assyrian Christians in a Baghdad church.
In Jerusalem, there have been instances of Christian churches being vandalized with spray-painted offensive remarks against Christianity including death threats. These are believed to be price tag attacks by extremist settlers.
In a 2008 Tel Aviv incident, hundreds of copies of the New Testament, which had been handed out in the city (allegedly by Messianic Jews), were burned by three teenaged Orthodox students of Judaism. Uzi Aharon, the town’s deputy mayor, told CNN he had collected the New Testaments but that he did not plan for them to be burned. The youths had done so while he was not present. Once he found out that the fire was going, he put it out.
A number of Ultra-Orthodox/Haredi youth have reportedly spat at Christian clergymen. Archbishop Aris Shirvanian, of Jerusalem's Armenian Patriarchate, says he personally has been spat at about 50 times in the past 12 years. The Anti-Defamation League has called on the chief Rabbis to speak out against the interfaith assaults. Father Goosan, Chief Dragoman of the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem, stated that, "I know there are fanatical Haredi groups that don't represent the general public but it's still enraging. It all begins with education. It's the responsibility of these men's yeshiva heads to teach them not to behave this way". In January 2010, Christian leaders, Israeli Foreign ministry staff, representatives of the Jerusalem municipality and the Haredi community met to discuss inter-faith tolerance. The Haredi Community Tribunal of Justice published a statement condemning harassment of Christians, stating that it was a "desecration of God's name." Several events were planned in 2010 by the Orthodox Yedidya congregation to show solidarity with Christians and improve relations between the Haredi and Christian communities of Jerusalem.
In July 2012, a former member of the Knesset, Michael Ben-Ari, who supports Kahanism, videotaped himself tearing up a copy of the New Testament and throwing it in the trash. Ben-Ari referred to it as a "despicable book" that should be "in the dustbin of history". In response, the American Jewish Committee urged the Knesset to censure Ben-Ari, while a spokesman for Benjamin Netanyahu also condemned Ben-Ari's actions.
According to the organization Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), state-controlled Palestinian media frequently demonize religions like Judaism and Christianity. PMW translated into English a children's television program aired twice in 2012 it said featured a young girl saying Jews and Christians are "cowardly and despised."
In 2002, a mob of Palestinian Muslims burned Christian property in Ramallah. A dossier submitted in 2005 to Church leaders in Jerusalem listed 93 incidents of abuse alleged to have been committed against Palestinian Christians by Muslim extremists and 140 cases of gangs allegedly stealing Christian land in the West Bank. In May 2012 a group of 100 Muslims attacked Taybeh, a Christian village in the West Bank.
In 2007, the Gaza Strip had a tiny Christian minority of 2,500–3,000. The Hamas overthrow of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza during that year was accompanied by violent attacks against Christians and Christian holy sites by Islamic militants. A Catholic convent and Rosary Sisters school were ransacked, with some Christians blaming Hamas for the attack. In September 2007 Christian anxiety grew after an 80-year-old Christian woman was attacked in her Gaza home by a masked man who robbed her and called her an infidel. That attack was followed less than a month later by a deadly assault on the owner of the only Christian bookstore in Gaza City. Muslim extremists were implicated as being behind the incident. The library of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) was bombed in 2008 by gunmen who, according to guards at the site, asked why the guards worked for "infidels."
In 2011, the Christian population of Gaza Strip was less than 1,400. A member of the Catholic faith told The Guardian he was stopped by a Hamas official and told to remove a wooden crucifix he was wearing.
The human rights advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) told the Christian Post that 35 Christian Ethiopians – men and women – were violently arrested in Jeddah in December 2011 while holding a prayer meeting in their home. The prisoners complained of being persecuted on account of their faith and of being pressured to convert to Islam, and the women reported undergoing a humiliating strip search. According to the ICC, one prisoner said, "The Muslim preacher [that was sent by officials to speak to the prisoners] vilified Christianity, denigrated the Bible and told us that Islam is the only true religion."
In October 2011, a draft resolution passed by the European Parliament accused rebel groups of persecuting the Syrian Christian population. In March 2012 reports circulated indicating that Christians were expelled from parts of Homs by an anti-Assad militant group with ties to al-Qaeda. In June a report in Agenzia Fides indicated that most of Qusair's Christian inhabitants had abandoned the town in the wake of an ultimatum from a local rebel leader.
On 6 June 1992, the Fantoft Stave Church, a wooden structure originally built in 1150 in Fortun, when the Vikings converted to Christianity, and moved to Bergen in 1883, was burnt down. At first the fire was attributed to lightning and electrical failure. In January 1993 Varg Vikernes, also known as "Count Grishnackh", was interviewed by a local journalist in his apartment decorated with 'Nazi paraphernalia, weapons and Satanic symbols'. According to Vikernes, black metal fans had declared war on Christianity and Norwegian society and was responsible for eight church burnings as part of an ongoing terror campaign. He used a photo of the charred remnants of the church taken soon after the fire on his band Burzum's album entitled Aske (Norwegian for ashes). Following his statement the Norwegian authorities began to clamp down on black metal fanatics.
In 1994, Vikernes was found guilty of murder, arson and possession of illegal weapons (including explosives) and given the maximum sentence under Norwegian law of 21 years in prison. He was released in 2009.
The following is a partial list of Norwegian Christian church arsons in 1992 by anti-Christian groups reported by English-language media sources:
- 23 May: Storetveit Church in Bergen.
- 6 June: Fantoft Stave Church in Bergen. Varg Vikernes was suspected of the crime, but denied this; he was not convicted.
- 1 August: Revheim Church in Stavanger.
- 21 August: Holmenkollen Chapel in Oslo.
- 1 September: Ormøya Church in Oslo.
- 13 September: Skjold Church in Vindafjord. Varg Vikernes and Samoth were convicted for this.
- October: Hauketo Church in Oslo.
- 24 December: Åsane Church in Bergen. Varg Vikernes and musician Jørn Inge Tunsberg were convicted for this.
- 25 December: a Methodist church in Sarpsborg. A firefighter was killed while fighting this fire.
Mark Pritchard, the Member of Parliament representing the English constituency of The Wrekin, instigated a debate in the House of Commons on 5 December 2007 on the issue of Anti-Christian sentiment, describing the phenomenon as "Christianophobia". Introducing the debate, he said it was about "how anti-Christian sentiment is increasing, not decreasing; why many Christians feel they are not getting a fair hearing when it comes to Christianity in the public square; and what many people of all faiths and no faith see as the increasing marginalisation of Britain’s Christian history, heritage and traditions through the actions of Whitehall Departments, Government agencies, local authorities, the charity commissioners, or other sectors of society." One example where anti-Christian sentiment was evident was when a church building was wrecked by squatters which included the adding of anti-Christian graffiti to the walls.
- Somalia: In September 2011 militants sworn to eradicate Christianity from Somalia beheaded two Christian converts. A third Christian convert was beheaded in Mogadishu in early 2012.
- Nigeria: The Boko Haram Islamist group has bombed churches and killed numerous Christians who they regard as kafirs (infidels).
- Zanzibar: In Muslim majority Zanzibar, there have been numerous attacks on churches. A bishop condemned the lack of action by the government.
- Mali: The Islamist group Ansar Dine has led to Christians fleeing their cities to avoid being put under sharia law.
- Senegal: During government protests, some crowds turned their violence against Christian churches. Some of the infrastructure was destroyed.
- Sudan: The Foreign Missionary Society Act of 1962 put a limit on the number of churches constructed. In 1992 there were mass arrests and torture of local priests. Students in military training were forbidden from praying unlike Muslims. Prior to partition, southern Sudan which had a number of Christian villages; these were subsequently wiped out by Janjaweed militias.
- Bolivia: An angry mob of Indigenous peoples destroyed the only evangelical church in the remote village of Chucarasi in the Bolivian Andes after beating a congregational elder unconscious. Villagers apparently attacked their Christian neighbors because they blamed them for a hail storm that damaged local crops.
- Chile: The killing of the priest Faustino Gazziero in 2004 ., CNTV program The Comedy Club parodies of Jesus, the burning of the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (national Patroness), and the subsequent mock of the faithful's grief in a nation wide newspaper.
United States of America
American atheist organizations such the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) have used various means of publicity, particularly at Christmas-time. Billboards are a popular method. During the Christmas season, December 2013, FFRF posted 55 billboards in Sacramento California promoting atheism while criticizing Christianity and religious faith in general. FFRF representatives in the video, state that the messages are only for 'lonely' atheists, that they are simply encouraging people to 'come out of the closet'. Another organization, American Atheists, ran a 2012 billboard campaign in New York City telling viewers to "Keep the merry! Dump the myth!" Its communications Director was quoted as saying, "The true beauty of the season – family, friends, and love – have nothing to do with the gods of yesteryear. Indeed, the season is far more enjoyable without the religious baggage of guilt and judgmentalism." American Atheists' (AA) Nov/Dec 2013 billboard ads proclaim "Who need Christ during Christmas? Nobody.".
The Freedom From Religion Foundation states in their "About the Foundation FAQ" that "Our Constitution was very purposefully written as a godless document, whose only references to religion are exclusionary." In general, atheist, humanist, and related organizations have taken the statement that Congress not establish a state religion to mean the elimination of any reference or expression whatsoever of religious belief on government property. Lawsuits to eliminate verbal, written, clothing, and other expressions of faith in public circles are prevalent and ongoing.
Jay Scott Ballinger, a self-described Satanist, admitted to setting fire to 30 to 50 churches in eleven states between 1994 and 1998. Ballinger and two others spray-painted an inverted cross on the steps of one church they burned as part of a satanic ritual.
Christians in China have been detained, denied the protection of the laws, and ordered to refrain from religious activities outside of China's single official Protestant church.
The beheadings of Christian girls in 2005 remains one of the most controversial incidents.
In Pakistan, 1.5% of the population are Christian. Pakistani law mandates that "blasphemies" of the Qur'an are to be met with punishment. At least a dozen Christians have been given death sentences, and half a dozen murdered after being accused of violating blasphemy laws. In 2005, 80 Christians were behind bars due to these laws.
A pattern of attacks on Christian children shows the "Pakistani police either failed to act or sided with the rapists and murderers."
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