After several high-level meetings and events in Washington, D.C., United Macedonian Diaspora’s Human Rights Delegation continued to Canada, to spread the word about the Greek government’s systemic oppression of the Macedonian community in Greece.
On October 25th and 26th, UMD Greece Representative, Eugenia Natsoulidou, and Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias were joined by UMD Director of Communications Mark Branov for official meetings with several Canadian MPs, representing all three of Canada’s major parties on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. They included Hon. Gary Schellenberger and Hon. Bernard Trottier from the ruling Conservative Party, Hon. Raymond Cote and a representative for Hon. Wayne Marston, of the New Democratic Party, and Hon. Irwin Cotler of the Liberal Party.
The delegation discussed the wide variety of legal mechanisms and intimidation tactics used by the Greek State to deprive Macedonians of their human rights, including the experience of the Educative and Cultural Movement of Edessa, which had its Macedonian language classes effectively shut down by Greek State authorities. The discussion also focused on the 20-year struggle of Archimandrite Tsarknias to establish the Macedonian Orthodox Church in northern Greece, despite 19 arrests, beatings by police officers, false accusations, and countless threats, all on behalf of the Greek State, the Greek Orthodox Church, and ultra-nationalist groups, working together to deny religious freedom in Greece.
“Father Tsarknias is a long-time inspiration to Macedonians worldwide, and Eugenia is working fearlessly on the ground in Egejska, together with a new generation of human rights activists. They are raising the profile of Macedonian community in Greece and highlighting the cultural oppression our people are facing under the so-called Hellenic ‘democracy’,” said UMD Canada Director Jim Daikos. “We need freedom-loving countries like Canada to stand up for the principles of equality, cultural rights, and religious liberty, as the European Union has failed so miserably to show leadership. The international community must step in to protect Greece’s oppressed ethnic and religious communities, and UMD is doing whatever it can to make that happen.”
A highlight of the Ottawa visit was a public seminar at the University of Ottawa’s Law Faculty, entitled “The Rise of Extremism in Greece and Its Impact on Minorities.” The event was generously sponsored and organized thanks to Canadian Lawyers Abroad. More than 60 guests attended, most of them aspiring lawyers in the field of human rights law.
The seminar was a special opportunity for future Canadian human rights lawyers to learn not only about the struggle faced by the native Macedonian community in Aegean Macedonia, but also about the Turkish community of Thrace, and other ethnic and religious communities in Greece, which are constantly harassed by State authorities, including state-funded radical church leaders like Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki.
The discussion highlighted the crimes being committed with impunity by neo-fascist extremists in Greece, such as members of the Golden Dawn political party, which recently won 18 seats in the Greek Parliament. Special focus was given to Greek extremism being exported to Canada: such as the “Insights to Hellenism” hate lecture at the University of Toronto, March 2011, and the recently opened chapter of the Golden Dawn party in Montreal.