Last summer the wave of arson and anti-Catholic vandalism may have abated, but Catholic Civil Rights League leader warns unless Catholics learn to unite to expose such heinous crimes, the worst is yet to come.
Christian Elia, executive director of the CCRL, sounded the warning by announcing the launch of the organization’s Church Attacks Database, which aims to keep a detailed public record of all attacks on the church. in Canada.
The database includes dates, locations and descriptions of arson, assault, break and enter, window breakage, degradation, desecration, graffiti, general property damage, public disturbance , public indecency, theft and damaging alteration of church billboards.
The CCRL list identified 153 such incidents spanning attacks from 2010 to 2021, but Elia is confident that the actual number is much higher, and urges the public to use the database reporting function to add any historical or current crime that the list omitted.
The database identified 10 incidents in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, but omitted at least one recent attack: the July 4, 2021 arson attempt at the historic Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Mission.
Const. Tania Visintin of the Vancouver Police Department said she “was not aware of any other charges laid in response to hate crimes committed during the spring / summer.”
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Vancouver said the database is similar to that maintained by other groups and its existence can help understand trends and the formation of future responses. The Archdiocese will send information on additional incidents to the CCRL; parishes and parishioners can freely submit their own reports, the spokesperson said.
The only charges laid in connection with either attack relate to an incident on July 1 at St. Jude’s Parish in Vancouver in which two people splashed orange paint on exterior walls and doors. Emily Luba and Zoe Luba, both 27, have been charged with mischief and will appear in court later this month.
The Vancouver Police Department’s media relations department did not respond to the British Columbia Catholicrequest information on any other investigation she had undertaken into hate-motivated attacks against the Church, including the ‘burn it all’ call to incendiary action posted on Twitter, by the executive director of the BCCLA era, Harsha Walia, in reference to the Catholic Church of Churches.
CCRL first identified the need for its new database in 2020 following arson and vandalism attacks in the Toronto area. âWhen we investigated a little more, particularly in southern Ontario, we were shocked to find that there did not appear to be a list – no one was monitoring acts of violence against churches,â said Elia.
The explosion of crimes against the Church last summer, which coincided with the identification of anonymous graves in former residential schools, gave “a sense of urgency” to the completion of the project, Elia said . The database records 57 attacks in 2021 alone – by far the highest number for a year.
âWe want to remind Canadians, and even our own friends and supporters, that if they witness an act of violence in their own community, they are unfortunately not alone,â Elia said in an interview with the The Catholic of British Columbia. He said the attacks tended to increase around Christmas and Easter, “which is worrying, and they have increased in recent years.”
The ultimate goal of the database is to inspire community leaders and politicians to speak out and take a firmer stand against anti-Catholic crimes. âBut I think, even before that happens, if anyone has to be awakened and called to action, it will be us Catholics,â Elia said.
He said he hoped Catholics would develop a collective “sense of awareness” of the gravity of the situation and realize that unless they “can find the courage to speak together with one voice,” the authorities are unlikely to act, and attacks on the Church will occur. only increase.
The activation of the CCRL database follows the publication this month by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe of its 2020 report on hate crimes in Europe. Of the 4,008 documented crimes, 980, or nearly 25 percent, were against Christians – the most victimized religious group.
Madeleine Enzlberger, executive director of the Vienna-based Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination Against Christians in Europe, said in an email interview “the results are shocking for Christians” and that the number of crimes could in fact be even higher.
Just as Elia urged Catholics to speak out on the issue, Enzlberger said in a press release that his organization wants to “empower Christians, so that they have the capacity to respond properly to situations of injustice and dare to speak out â.
She added that the dramatically increasing numbers should be an eye opener for political and cultural elites. âIn the media and in politics, hatred of Christians is hardly seen as an increasingly obvious social problem,â Enzlberger said. “The OSCE report reflects only part of this trend, which we have documented for years, and yet it is a cry of alarm against indifference and what seems to have become a fashionable denigration. Of Christians.
The latest official Canadian figures, released in March by the Canadian Center for Justice and Community Safety, showed that hate crimes directed against Canadian Catholics increased each year from 2016 to 2019, even though the number of such incidents targeting all religious groups in this country declined in 2018 and 2019.
Elsewhere, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops reported in October that at least 111 incidents of vandalism had occurred in 29 states and the District of Columbia since May 2020, when it began compiling statistics. . The incidents included arson; beheaded statues, limbs cut, broken and painted; gravestones disfigured by swastikas, anti-Catholic language and American flags burnt beside them; and other destruction and acts of vandalism.
The USCCB drew attention to the 100th such incident, which took place on October 10: “Satanic and hateful graffiti was scrawled on the walls of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver, Colorado”.
“These incidents of vandalism range from the tragic to the obscene, from the transparent to the inexplicable,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, chairman of the Committee for Religious Freedom, and Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of ‘Oklahoma City, President. of the USCCB’s Committee on National Justice and Human Development, said in a joint statement.
“There is still a lot that we don’t know about this phenomenon, but at a minimum, they underscore that our society is in dire need of God’s grace.”