The United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) announced the publication of its new report: Greece: Religious Freedom Abuses – The Case of the Macedonian Orthodox Christian Minority. The report outlines the culture of abuse inherent to the Greek legal system concerning the lack of religious freedom, and it outlines the grievances of recent immigrants, the historic Turkish minority in Thrace, and the indigenous Macedonian Orthodox Christian community in Aegean Macedonia, northern Greece.
There is no separation of Church and State in Greece, as Article 3 of the Constitution defines the Greek Orthodox Church (GOC) as “the prevailing religion.” Thus, only the Greek Orthodox clergy are considered civil servants, and practices such as proselytism and cremation are forbidden. The legal system does not allow religions other than Greek Orthodox to legally practice, as in the high-profile prosecutions against the Turkish Muftis of Xanthi, cases that were later abrogated at the European Court of Human Rights.
The plight of the Macedonian Orthodox Christian minority in Greece is even more desperate. The Greek Government has denied a permit to re-establish the Macedonian Orthodox Church at Aridea (S’botsko) for two decades, and has imposed complex procedural punishments for the vast majority of the Macedonian population. For example, Greek priests refuse to baptize children with Macedonian names, and GOC leaders like Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki actively encourage violence against Macedonians on nationwide state-funded television. As public employees, a network of GOC informants coordinate with the state police to suppress all Macedonian human rights activities in the country.
“UMD hopes to see Athens guarantee equal religious freedom for all Greek citizens and residents, in accordance with international law. Members of the U.S. Congress, State Department officials, as well as members of the Australian, Canadian and European Parliaments will receive our latest report, and we will continue to speak loudly on behalf of struggling and unrecognized religious minorities in Greece, who have no voice,” said UMD President Metodija A. Koloski.
UMD Regional Representative for Greece, Eugenia Natsoulidou, added: “As the Greek government struggles to cope with the economic crisis, a social crisis is also taking place. The rise of aggressive fascist politics in the Greek Parliament has spread intimidation, and elements in the Greek Church are cooperating with that new fascism very closely. Greek society threatens to be consumed by xenophobia and intolerance, and UMD is working hard to raise the alarm across Europe and the world.”
To read the full report, please click HERE.