Greece Continues to Obstruct Religious Freedom of Macedonians

UMD is appalled by the ongoing religious discrimination faced by indigenous ethnic Macedonians in Aegean Macedonia / northern Greece, and demands a reversal of this inhumane policy.

Last year, the Greek Tax Revenue Office in Voden (Edessa) fined Archimandrite Nikodim Tsarknias, an ethnic Macedonian priest, on the false pretext that he had failed to declare revenue on his annual tax revenue statements.

Tsarknias was ordered to pay approximately €45,000 in tax on €57,000 in donations that he accepted for the construction of the Sveta Zlata Meglenska Macedonian Orthodox Church in S’botsko (Aridea), which, like all things Macedonian, is unrecognized by the Greek State.

Since Tsarknias merely accepted the funds on behalf of the community church, he responded to the Tax Revenue Office that he had no legal obligation to declare it as “income.” The office denied his claim, and upheld their fine. After filing an appeal in January 2018, Tsarknias is now seeking an anullment of these illegal fines. If the fines are not reversed, he is prepared to sue the public administration for violations of the tax code and blatant illegal discrimination against him, based on his ethnic heritage and religious identity.

President Metodija A. Koloski said: “These actions by the Greek government are a clear reflection of their state policy to persecute citizens who think “unapproved thoughts,” who speak unapproved languages, or who reject the bigotry of the Greek Orthodox Church. Freedom of religion is a core freedom that must be respected universally; Greece is no exception.”

Since the annexation of Aegean Macedonia in 1913, Greece has committed ethnic cleansing, cultural genocide, and cruel atrocities against the indigenous Macedonians of the region. Part of that policy is to undermine the religious freedom of Macedonians. In modern times, this means banning the construction of new Macedonian Orthodox churches to replace the ancient ones that were confiscated by the Greek Orthodox Church, a process which included the removal or defacement of ancient icons and tombstones.

The harassment against Archimandrite Tsarknias goes back decades; as a human rights activist, he has been arrested more than a dozen times, including being physically assaulted by a Greek police officer.

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