In the Middle East, Pakistan, India, North Korea and parts of China – hatred and persecution of Christians is well documented. But who would have thought preaching the gospel would become a risky business on the streets of Britain? Last month saw the wheelchair bound preacher Claudio Boggi being threatened and spat at by a man called Ali Al-Hindawi, who shouted ‘Allah is God’. Al-Hindawi went on to attack another Christian volunteer in Westminster, biting his fingers and assaulting him with a metal bar – he’s thankfully now in jail. Next came the news that an innocent street preacher, Oluwole Ilesanmi, had been arrested for ‘breach of the peace’ outside Southgate tube station, after being reported for ‘Islamophobia’. But are such incidents a sign of a broader antipathy towards Christians or simply isolated incidents?
At the beginning of the year, the Royal Holloway University of London published a survey on ‘The Safety and Security of Anglican Clergy’. The startling findings indicated that one in ten members of the clergy had been subjected to violent behaviour in the previous two years. Of the 540 UK respondents, more than two thirds had been on the receiving end of verbal abuse and one in five had experienced threatening behaviour. The authors of the report confirmed that the main reasons for the verbal abuse included the alcohol and drug use of attackers, mental illness, declined requests for money, and anti-Christian sentiments. Some, however, have suggested that the Christianophobic element shouldn’t be played down.
Nick Tolson the director of National Churchwatch, an organisation that advises on church security, told me that anti-Christian hate crime appears to be increasing:
‘ In the survey, most clergy who suffer from verbal abuse regularly say that it is mostly anti-Christian. Most of these crimes are not reported and clergy often suffer significant effects on their vocation.’