ROME, 12 September 2011 – Participating States need to step up their efforts to effectively prevent and combat hate crimes against Christians, participants said at the opening of an OSCE conference in Rome today.
“It is indisputable that hate crimes against Christians occur in the OSCE region,” said Janez Lenarčič, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).
According to information collected by ODIHR for its annual hate crimes report, there have been cases of desecration of places of worship, arson and other property damage, and attacks on worshippers and religious leaders.
“Such attacks instill fear, not just in the individuals they target directly, but also in the wider community, particularly where the Christian community in question belongs to a minority,” added Lenarčič.
Lamberto Zannier, the OSCE’s Secretary General, pointed out the threat hate crimes present to security in the region and said such crimes should be closely monitored as part of the OSCE’s early warning and conflict prevention role. He stressed the importance of collecting reliable data on the occurrence of hate crimes in participating States.
Evaldas Ignatavičius, Lithuania’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, said constant attention is required to build religious acceptance and combat the corrosive spread of hate and discrimination against religious practices and beliefs.
“It requires an ongoing process of open reflection, improved education at all levels and public awareness building and legislative action if we are to stamp out this most insidious form of human rights violation,” he added.
Among the speakers at the meeting were Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, and Massimo Introvigne, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office on combating intolerance and discrimination against Christians and members of other religions.
The meeting was attended by close to 150 representatives of the OSCE’s 56 participating States, religious communities and non-governmental organizations.
Discussions focused on raising awareness on hate-motivated crimes and incidents targeting Christians and their property and the sharing of good practices on how to combat and prevent such incidents. A special focus was placed on attacks on places of worship, one of the most common forms of hate crimes experienced by Christian communities.
OSCE participating States have agreed on a broad range of commitments to combat racism, xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance, including against Muslims, Jews and Christians.