UMD: New Intimidation Tactics Against Ethnic Macedonian Priest In Greece

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 8, 2008 – The president of United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) expressed deep concern over an attack against an ethnic Macedonian cleric and human rights activist in Greece today.  “According to the latest news reports, two disturbing and shameful attacks – one on April 3rd and one on April 4th — were perpetrated on the home of Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias in Northern Greece,” said UMD President, Metodija A. Koloski.

In both instances, students from a nearby high school vandalized Archimandrite Tsarknias’ home after being encouraged to do so by teachers and other state employees.  When the 61-year-old cleric approached the local high school to discuss the episode with school officials and to appeal for peace, he was swarmed by upwards of 300 students and teachers, threatening him and demanding that he leave Greece and “go north” to the Republic of Macedonia.

UMD appeals to international media and civil rights advocates to investigate this attack which is just the latest act of ultra-nationalism and abuse in a country infamous for its maltreatment of all of its ethnic minorities and which coincided with the Greek veto of Macedonia’s NATO membership.  Of particular concern in this attack is the manipulation of impressionable youth by teachers charged with their education and who should be teaching ethnic tolerance, not encouraging illegal and immoral activity by their students.

Koloski also urged the Greek government to undertake all necessary measures to punish such attacks and to work with Archimandrite Tsarknias to address the other injustices perpetuated against the Macedonian minority in Greece.   “We call for the recognition and preservation of the basic civil rights of Macedonians and all other minorities in Greece,” said Koloski.

It is time for the Greek government to recognize the Macedonian minority in Greece, to allow them basic human rights, and to permit the Greek citizens of Macedonian ethnicity, who were forced to leave their homes during the Greek Civil War, back into their own country,” said Koloski.

Background – Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias is a monk of the Orthodox Christian faith. He is a citizen of the Republic of Greece and is a member of the ethnic-Macedonian minority in that country. He was an ordained member of the Orthodox Church in Greece (the only legal Orthodox Church in Greece) from 1973 until 1991. Archimandrite Tsarknias served as a personal secretary to the Florina/Lerin diocese’s bishop, Augustine. Archimandrite Tsarknias opposed bishop Augustin’s attempt to eradicate Macedonian religious customs, which have been suppressed by the Greek government since the end of the Second Balkan Wars in 1913.

After openly declaring his ethnic Macedonian identity in 1991, and having communicated with parishioners in the Macedonian language, he was dismissed from his ecclesiastical post in the diocese of Florina/Lerin. He assumed the same post in Edessa/Voden but was subsequently dismissed there also. On March 11, 1992, he was expelled from the Orthodox Church in Greece altogether.  Archimandrite Tsarknias became an ordained member of the Macedonian Orthodox Church following his expulsion from the Orthodox Church in Greece.
 
Archimandrite Tsarknias continues to have trouble in his spiritual duties to the ethnic-Macedonian minority, a result of longstanding Greek government policy towards minorities.  Archimandrite Tsarknias has also been put on trial for myriad reasons since joining the Macedonian Orthodox Church.  Several human rights organizations and international observers have attended these trials.

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Founded in 2004, United Macedonian Diaspora is an international nongovernmental and nonpartisan organization addressing the interests and needs of Macedonians and Macedonian communities throughout the world. For additional information, please contact UMD at 202-294-3400 or [email protected]

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