Last month, the United Macedonian Diaspora (UMD) spearheaded, through the informal International Religious Freedom Roundtable, a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signed by 14 organizations/individuals expressing deep concern about longstanding, serious violations of religious freedom in Greece. The informal group of human rights advocates and religious leaders strongly urged Secretary Kerry to call upon Greece to ratify the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and to actively and in good faith secure religious freedom for all religious minorities in Greece.
To read the full letter, please click HERE.
The letter outlines the legal framework of religious freedom in Greece, as well as Greece’s obligations under international law. Namely, the letter makes the following points:
• There is no separation of Church and State in Greece. In fact, the Greek Constitution (in Article 3 thereof) goes as far as to state that: “The prevailing religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ.”
• Greece is a signatory, but has not ratified or acceded to, the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.
• Numerous decisions by the European Court of Human Rights attest to the lack of religious freedom in Greece, outside of the Greek Orthodox faith.
• According to reports by the U.S. Department of State, the following religious groups have faced significant religious freedom violations in Greece: Macedonian Christian Orthodox followers, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Scientologists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, evangelical Christians, and other Protestants.
• In the case of the Muslim minority, the Greek State elects the religious leaders of the Muslim minority and does not recognize the right of the Turkish minority to freely elect its own religious leaders.
• As a prime example of Greece’s longstanding violations of religious freedom is the case of the Macedonian Orthodox Christian minority, or more specifically to the case of Father Tsarknias, who has struggled for twenty years to open a church of the Macedonian Orthodox faith.
The letter stresses the importance of future State Department Human Rights Reports as well as Reports on International Religious Freedom to accurately and thoroughly portray the situation in Greece.
Copies were submitted to Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, and the Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett.
The letter was signed by the following:
AMERICAN HUMANIST ASSOCIATION CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY NATIONAL AFFAIRS OFFICE
FEDERATION OF WESTERN THRACE TURKS IN EUROPE
HUMAN RIGHTS LAW FOUNDATION (HRLF)
INSTITUTE ON RELIGION & PUBLIC POLICY
INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
RUSSIAN ORTHODOX AUTONOMOUS CHURCH OF AMERICA
UNION OF COUNCILS FOR JEWS OF THE FORMER SOVIET UNION (UCSJ)
UNITED MACEDONIAN DIASPORA (UMD)
Ann Buwalda, Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign
Faith J. H. McDonnell, Director, Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan, The Institute on Religion and Democracy
Greg Mitchell, President, The Mitchell Firm
Stuart A Wright, Professor and Chair Department of Sociology, Social Work & Criminal Justice Lamar University