Anti-Christian Discrimination in Europe

Over at First Things:

A recently released report by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians (a nonprofit group based in Austria) supplements and confirms Paul Coleman’s article in our June/July issue about discrimination against Christians in Europe.

The report documents numerous restrictions on religious freedom—related to conscientious objection, hate speech and anti-discrimination laws, education, and more—and incidents of anti-Christian vandalism and discrimination in more than thirty European countries last year.

Collectively these demonstrate (to quote Mark Movsesian’s post from this morning) how “governments [in the West] seem willing to require traditional Christians to give up their religious convictions as the price for entering the marketplace, or even doing charitable work.”

The organization’s director Dr. Gudrun Kugler answered a common objection to that claim in an address she delivered to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe:

Sometimes I get asked, how can a majority be discriminated against? Well, it is not the nominal Christian who is fully aligned to society’s mainstream, who suffers discrimination. It is those who strive to live according to the high ethical demands of Christianity, who experience a clash. Those are not the majority.

In other words, one can certainly call oneself a Christian without facing any kind of difficulty. It is not Christian identity but the freedom to preach and live out traditional Christian beliefs that is imperiled in Europe.

The full report is available here as a PDF.


Bible Archaeology

World’s Oldest Torah Scroll Found in Italy

It was virtually ignored for centuries, but what may be the world’s oldest Torah, the holy book of the Jewish faith, has now been discovered at the world’s oldest university.

The Telegraph:


The priceless scroll was found in the archives of Bologna University, which was founded in 1088 and predates both Oxford and Cambridge.

The scroll, written in Hebrew, is 118ft long and 25 inches wide and consists of the first five books of the Jewish Bible, from Bereshit (the equivalent of Genesis) to Devarim (Deuteronomy).

It had been wrongly dated to the 17th century by a librarian who studied it in 1889, but it now transpires that it is more than 800 years old.

The discovery was made by Mauro Perani, the university’s professor of Hebrew.

He recently re-examined the scroll and noticed that the script was from a Babylonian tradition that suggested it was much older than previously thought.

The Torah, inscribed on soft lamb skin, also bore “letters and symbols” that were forbidden in later copies under rules laid down by Jewish scholars, Prof Perani said.

“At that point I sent photos of the scroll to some of the world’s leading experts. They all agreed that it dated to the 12th or 13th centuries. One scholar believed it could even date back to the 11th century.” The scroll was then subjected to carbon dating tests by the University of Salento in Italy and a laboratory at the University of Illinois in the United States.

The tests confirmed the scholars’ opinions, dating the text to between 1155 and 1225.

“That makes it the oldest complete Torah scroll in the world,” said Prof Perani.

Torah scrolls are extremely rare because most were eventually destroyed after being used in Jewish liturgies.

“When the manuscripts became worn out, it was considered that they lost their holiness. They could no longer be used for religious ceremonies and they were buried,” Prof Perani said.

Until now, the oldest Torah script in existence dated from the 14th century.

How the scroll ended up in Bologna remains a mystery, according to Biancastella Antonino, the head of the library.

It will be put on display next month at Bologna University. It will also be photographed and uploaded in digital format onto the library’s website.