Holy See: Hate crimes against Christians under-reported

2015-11-17 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See delegation to the OSCE has made a statement at a meeting on Hate Crimes.

“The  poor  attention  given  to  hate  crimes committed against majority communities and the fact that hate crimes motivated by religious bias or prejudice are under-reported and under-recorded …imply that the hate crimes against members of religions and, especially against Christians, are certainly more numerous than those indicated [in annual reports],” said Monsignor Janusz Urbańczyk, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the OSCE.

The full text of the statement is below.





17 NOVEMBER 2015

Mr. Chairperson,

1.  At the outset, my Delegation wishes to note that the participation of the Holy See in the OSCE is specific and corresponds to its nature as a sovereign subject of international law that pursues religious and moral ends, and which, however, is separate and distinct from the Vatican City State. Therefore the Holy See contributes to this meeting in accordance with its universal moral and spiritual mission, while respecting the primary responsibility of the participating States to protect individuals within their jurisdictions.

2.  As a general premise, the Holy See notes with deep concern that in the entire OSCE area  –  both East and West of Vienna  –  many persons and communities are subject to threats or acts of hostility or violence as a result of their racial, ethnic or religious identity. The Holy See is also fully aware of, and deplores, numerous acts of intolerance and discrimination occurring in the OSCE area, for example on linguistic and cultural grounds, or based on property and social origin or, moreover, for political reasons and so on.

All the phenomena just mentioned undoubtedly threaten the social cohesion inside each participating State, affecting the wider community that is the victim. But only some of them might erode confidence between States and trigger violence and conflict on a wider-scale, putting in danger the peaceful relations among the States.

Therefore, the Holy See remains confident that, in accordance with its nature as a security organization, the OSCE will develop a specific response to those phenomena that can undermine the peace and stability of the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian Region, remaining within the realm of the commitments consensually agreed upon by the Participating States.

In  this  regard,  it  is  useful  to  recall,  inter  alia,  that  the  Ministerial  Council Decision  No.  13/06,  encouraged  the  ODIHR’s  activities  to  be  “based  on  existing commitments”. Undue attention to other concerns, even if legitimate, serves only to distract the efforts of the OSCE and the ODIHR, as well as to forestall effective and timely measures to address the original commitments, many of which have yet to be implemented.

3.  That being said, and having heard the presentation of findings of ODIHR’s 2014  hate  crime  reporting,  the  Holy  See  would  make  the  following  remarks,  also based on the activity of its National Point of Contact:

a.  Data on hate crimes reported by the police confirm –  especially when dealing with  hate  crimes  motivated  by  religious  bias  or  prejudice  –  that  “victims  of  hate crimes  may  belong  to  both  minority  and  majority  communities,”  as  already acknowledged by the Ministerial Council Decision No. 9/09. In several participating States, hate crimes against Christians and members of other religions represent a very significant  number  of  hate  crimes  recorded.  Therefore,  as  a  wide  group  statement highlighted  in  the  closing  plenary  session  of  the  Tirana  High-Level  Conference  on Tolerance  and  Non-Discrimination,  “it  has  become  outdated  to  talk  about  minority and majority religions,” since “all religions or beliefs are concerned, often in ways that  go  unnoticed”  (PC.DEL/383/13).  On  the  other  hand,  too  often  the  term ‘minorities’ is used as a synonym of ‘victims,’ as if the victims could belong only to minority groups.

b.  Anti-Semitic  hate  crimes  and  hate  crimes  motivated  by  religious  bias  or prejudice are mainly perpetrated not against persons, but against properties. In fact, about  60/70%  of  such  hate  crimes  were  committed  against  properties.  Since,  in several jurisdictions, crimes against properties are considered less serious than those against  persons,  there  is  both  the  risk  of  under-recording  and  a  reluctance  to investigate and prosecute these crimes.

c.  The  poor  attention  given  to  hate  crimes  committed  against  majority communities and the fact that hate crimes motivated by religious bias or prejudice are under-reported and under-recorded for the reasons mentioned above, imply that the hate  crimes  against  members  of  religions  and,  especially  against  Christians,  are certainly more numerous than those indicated in the annual reporting of the ODIHR.

4.  In  light  of  the  above,  the  Holy  See  wishes  to  make  the  following recommendations: firstly, the National Points of Contact are called upon to collect, maintain  and  make  public  disaggregated  data  on  hate  crimes  perpetrated  against members  of  different  religions,  in  accordance  with  Ministerial  Decision  No.  9/09; secondly, more attention should by given to hate crimes perpetrated against majority communities,  both  in  data  collection  and  training  programs  for  law  enforcement (TAHCLE), prosecutors (PAHCT) and Civil Society that are designed by the ODIHR and implemented by the participating States.

Furthermore,  consideration  should  be  given  to  developing  specific  initiatives pertaining to the protection of Christian communities, as has already been done by the ODIHR for the Jewish and the Muslim communities. In this respect, it should also be  recalled  that,  in  accordance  with  Ministerial  Council  Decision  No.  3/13, participating States have already committed themselves to “adopt policies to promote respect and protection for places of worship and religious sites, religious monuments, cemeteries and shrines against vandalism and destruction”.

5.  With regard to hate crime laws, we were informed today that  51  participating States (of the 57 participating States of the OSCE) include race, ethnicity, nationality or similar characteristics in their hate crimes provisions, while 46  include religion or belief  among  the  protected  characteristics.  Moreover,  a  smaller  number  of participating  States  include  other  protected  characteristics  in  their  hate  crime  laws.

Finally,  it  should  be  noted  that  there  are  also  less  commonly  protected  categories, including  marital  status,  birth,  wealth,  class,  property,  social  position,  political affiliation or ideology and military service (see OSCE/ODIHR  Hate Crime Laws. A Practical Guide, 2009, p. 25)

6.  Thus  we  can  say  that  there  is  a  broad  consensus  in  the  OSCE  area  that considers  race,  ethnicity,  nationality,  religion  or  belief  as  protected  categories  in national hate crimes laws, in line with the relevant UN human rights instruments and standards.

On the other hand, there is no such consensus about other categories, which are more or less frequently protected, nor are there any commitments agreed upon by all participating States to pledge the adoption of hate crime laws that should include their protection.

Therefore, Delegations or OSCE Institutions should refrain from affirmations or proposals  regarding  hate  crime  laws  that  are  not  based  on  OSCE  commitments  or international law.

7.  Nevertheless, the Holy See is fully aware that intolerance and discrimination represent  a  sad  daily  reality  for  too  many  persons  in  the  OSCE  area.  It  should  be recalled  here  that  the  Holy  See  has  repeatedly  and  decisively  condemned  violence against people and every sign of unjust discrimination. The Catholic Church, at every moment  of  history  and  in  an  ever  new  way,  is  always  being  challenged  by  the message of love that the Founder left her. It is a love that sees only the man and the woman in need, and it does not allow itself to be disturbed by other considerations.

Such was the attitude of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel: he brought help to the wounded stranger, abandoned at the side of the road and ignored by passers-by. The Good Samaritan helped a fellow human being who was in need. This gospel parable is a powerful reminder that the dignity of the human person is the basis for all human rights. Through its participation in the OSCE and its presence here the Holy See seeks to affirm and defend the dignity of every human person.

Thank you Mr. Chairperson.

(from Vatican Radio)