Hate crimes against Christians here, not just abroad

Attacks on members of the clergy are alarmingly frequent, much more so than you might imagine. The authorities must do more and the attacks should be classified for what they are: hate crimes

Lighting candles for Christians
Clare George-Hilley
On 20 January 2014 11:58

Being a Christian is a pretty challenging vocation in modern Britain, with the seemingly relentless attacks and mockery from the media and pressure groups sitting alongside an uncomfortable, stony silence from the government.

Whilst much attention has rightly been given to the violent persecution and treatment of Christians in other parts of the world, not enough attention has been given to the creeping anti-Christian sentiment that risks become just another part of of the British way of life.

It is hard to comprehend the crucial role that vicars and priests play in our society. It is not only comforting the sick and the distressed, these people dedicate their lives to supporting communities and act as pillars of hope and reconciliation.

Pay a visit to your local Church and you will meet the rich and the poor, people with different ethnicity, backgrounds and cultures, all gathered under one unified purpose. In the modern, material world where we are all chasing the next big thing, these institutions play a vital role in reminding us all what really matters, and this is something we should protect and not persecute.

However, data collated by the Parliament Street think tank research team has uncovered some startling findings about the levels of violent attacks made on members of the clergy across the country.

Around 200 vicars and priests in the UK have been violently assaulted over the last five years with several incidents of grievous bodily harm, harassment and actual bodily harm contained in the Police notes.

One Priest was beaten in his church, whilst another was hit over the head with a wooden pole. Another had a dog set on him, whilst another was bitten on the hand, by a human. These findings are however just a mere snapshot of the brutal physical attacks endured by members of the clergy since a reference to one's job title is not a mandatory field in Police crime reports.

In other words, we don't know the full extent of what is going on.

Following the murder of Rev John Suddards in Thornbury who was found stabbed to death with a note which read ‘Christian scum,’ the launch of these findings were greeted with a mixture of disbelief and anger.

Father Timothy Lipscomb, the vicar of Preston responded by saying “I think the trouble is you don’t really do an effective job as a parish priest unless you make yourself vulnerable. It is sad that you have to protect yourself to protect others. It’s completely wrong that people should attack clergy. I am not surprised.. I think it is terrible.”

It is however all too often the case that members of the clergy accept violent attacks as simply an aspect of the job description. The government needs to take action to change things.

It is time for Britain to stand up for the people that give up so much to support the communities around them. This issue has already received widespread media coverage, been raised in the House of Commons and a discussion has begun with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

By taking steps to consider classifying assaults on members of the clergy as hate crimes, a move which would lead to much more severe penalties, this would also send a clear signal to Christian leaders that the government is doing everything in its power to protect them.

Persecution of Christians should be tackled with decisive action head on at home and abroad, and we are waiting for the government to stand up for the people it is supposed to represent.

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