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Christians practice “various forms of self-censorship” and find it increasingly difficult to freely express their faith, even in historically Christian countries, according to a new study by religious watchdog groups.
The report, entitled “Perceptions on self-censorship: confirming and understanding the chilling effect”, was compiled by the Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians (OIDAC) in Europe, OIDAC in Latin America and the International Institute for Religious Freedom. .
The data is based on “unstructured interviews” with people who have experienced what the report calls the “chilling effect” by which Christians self-censor their faith, even unwittingly.
The report also explains that “to acquire meaningful and specific data (and avoid general and vague assessments), it was decided to focus on four countries on two continents where secular intolerance, as a driving force of persecution, produces the most extreme expressions according to Open Doors International’s global watchlist, to observe the chilling effect in its purest form.”
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In Europe they interviewed Christians in France and Germany and in Latin America they chose Mexico and Colombia.
“Some people fear that they will face legal action or be penalized for discrimination, while others fear that they will be subject to disciplinary proceedings in their jobs or workplaces,” the report said. study.
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“With few exceptions, the majority chose to keep private their expressions of faith or opinions on matters related to life, marriage and family from a perspective of Christian doctrine because they had witnessed sanctions or lawsuits against colleagues or peers,” he added.
Although some of the incidents cited in the report may seem insignificant, the authors observed that “these many little things together cause ‘death by a thousand cuts'”.
“A few cuts do not kill and hardly hurt. But small, continuous strikes ultimately have an impact. We posit that the accumulation of seemingly insignificant incidents creates an environment in which Christians do not feel comfortable – in extent – to live their faith freely.Indeed, Western Christians experience a “chilling effect” resulting from perceived pressures in their cultural environment, linked to widely publicized court cases.
The study also observed that due to the subtle and usually non-physically violent nature of the paralyzing effect, “it is often misunderstood or even ignored and therefore remains largely invisible”.
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Without offering a definition of deterrent effect to respondents, the report also noted that some “were unaware of self-censorship in their own lives”, which the study described as “an important finding”.
Madeleine Enzelberger, executive director of OIDAC Europe, told Christian Today that the study “raises the following legitimate question: how is it possible, in a mature liberal democratic society, synonymous with tolerance, diversity and inclusive discourse and open, that people are afraid to speak freely what they think?
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