A new report has found that attacks against Christians are on the rise in Europe with 241 documented cases in 2013, but experts remind that we have been “prepared in the catacombs” to fight the daily persecution so many of us are now facing.
The Daily Mail is reporting on the annual study, released by the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe which documents hundreds of hate-based attacks against Christians have taken place in the Old World.
For instance, Christian sites in 11 countries were the targets of 133 cases of vandalism last year. In one case, graffiti was scrawled on the wall of an Austrian cathedral and read: “We do not want your crosses”. The graffiti included a swastika.
The altar of one church in France was set on fire while excrement was smeared on the altar of another.
“In June 2013 the Salvatorian monastery of Hörbranz in Vorarlberg was raided by two masked gunmen and the monk was held at gunpoint,” the Mail reports.
“Other incidents include a bomb being planted in a Spanish church and a Molotov cocktail being thrown against the door of a church in Italy after it had been renovated.”
The data comprising the report was collected from local media and through contact with people who were affected by the attacks.
“The increasingly secular society in Europe has less and less space for Christianity,” said Dr. Gudrun Kugler, director of the Observatory.
“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.”
While persecution in the West is still tame compared to what is being experienced by Christians in other countries, developed societies have their own way of silencing the Church.
Experts such as William Henley, former aide in the Nixon White House, and congressional chief of staff, says Western persecution follows a specific sequence which he believes has accelerated in recent years.
The sequence moves from caricaturization to marginalization to vilification to villainization to criminalization to elimination.
“One of the easiest ways to discredit someone, an institution, movement, or idea is to caricature it by making the subject look comical or grotesque,” Henley wrote earlier this month in the Christian Post.
Presenting followers of Christ as bumbling Bible thumpers or intolerant hypocrites, making them the brunt of late-night comedy show hosts, eventually convinces the public that they deserve to be marginalized.
“Vilification easily follows from marginalization,” he continues. “To vilify is to defame and slander. The goal is to shrink respect for the person, movement, institution, or idea being vilified. Marginalization says the person, movement, institution, or idea deserves only a minimal and peripheral role in culture. But vilification suggests there really should be no role at all for the vilified subject. It has nothing to contribute to the great societal conversation, not even from the cultural boondocks.”
Once someone has been caricatured, marginalized, and villified, it’s not too great leap to then villainize them, he writes.
“That pesky person, movement, institution, or idea is no longer to be scorned merely, but feared. It’s the bad boy on the cultural street, ready to trip or assault the noble civilization-builders and freedom-defenders who gallantly march by.”
What Henley calls the “cultural SWAT team” is now standing by, ready to raise public awareness of these villains, much like the U.S. media portrays anyone who opposes abortion “rights” or same-sex marriage.
Once villainization occurs, those who espouse these twisted ideas get into office and start rewriting laws, thus ushering in the era of criminalization.
“New laws are written redefining marriage, or infringing on the freedom of conscience and practice within the villainous class, and suddenly there’s a smoking gun. Lawsuits stir in the minds of the protectors of the cultural consensus. A Chick-Fil-A here, a Hobby Lobby there; a pastor refusing to perform a same-sex wedding, a Christian baker refusing to bake for a marriage ceremony not in accord with his faith, Christian B&B keepers who won’t accommodate homosexual couples.”
From criminalization, it’s just a hop-skip-and-a-jump to elimination. “The offenders must be removed for the greater good. In some parts of the world elimination is of the blatant style: hang them, gas them, behead them. Anything. Just eliminate them.”
However, in civilized America, this elimination takes a different form. “Fire corporate leaders who have gone against political correctness and the Establishment line. Dismiss them from boards. Lynch them in the media. Anything short of literal blood. Just get them out of the way.”
Henley warns that the church needs to be ready for the age we are living in, but also reminds us that, just like our predecessors in the early church, we have been “prepared in the catacombs” for greater ministry in the public square.
“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Matt. 5:11-12).
Alleluiah! The victory is forever ours!