Macedonian Human Rights Movement International
OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting - Freedom of Religion

om: The Macedonian Human Rights Movement in Greece and The Macedonian Human Rights Movement of Canada

I. Religious Dialogue and Conflict Prevention;
II. Religious Pluralism and Limitations on Freedom of Religion;
llI. Report on the ODIHR Advisory Panel on Freedom of Religion and Proposals for Future Activities.

Distinguished Moderator and Representatives:

Thank you for the opportunity to present a number of difficulties as experienced by the Macedonian minority in Greece and Bulgaria due to the lack of tolerance and recognition of the minorities' existence. At the same time we will propose constructive and practical approaches towards their resolution.

With respect to the Macedonian minority in Greece, the restrictions on free association and the right of peaceful assembly are many and varied. The Human Rights Movement in Greece has applied repeatedly for registration as a not-for-profit corporation as required by law but has been refused each time despite that it meets technical requirements and consequently it operates without legal status. A different approach which is likely best described as "bureaucratic run-around" has stymied the legitimate attempt of the Reverend Nikodim Tsarknias to establish a Macedonian Orthodox Church in Northern Greece to serve the pastoral needs of the local Macedonians.

In April 1997, he made an application to the Greek Prime Minister Simitis and the Minister of Religion to build a Macedonian Orthodox Church, in a manner consistent with established practice for the founding of religious institutions in Greece. The Prime Minister's response a month later was simply that the matter had been referred to the proper authorities and would be resolved according to the procedures of Greek law - despite the fact that Greek law does not recognize the existence of a Macedonian minority. A second application was sent, but as of today, no further response from the Greek government has been received by Reverend Tsarknias.

Instead, to this day the Greek government continues its policy to eradicate anything Macedonian. The 300 year old cemetery of Gorno Pozharsko (Greek name - Ano Loutraki) was destroyed in May, 1998. The old Macedonian church has been left in ruins while a new Greek church was built on the site of the old cemetery. This is consistent with the Greek Orthodox Church's policy of destroying the old Macedonian churches and in their place building new Greek churches.

In the case of the Macedonians in Bulgaria who openly call themselves Macedonians, the government continues to place unlawfull restrictions on the fundamental rights, such as the freedom of religion. Not only that the Macedonians are not permitted to build churches, they are not even allowed to gather for commemoration at the graves of their dead.

Dear Moderator, the solution to this type of intolerance is very simple:

Greece and Bulgaria must recognize the existence of the Macedonian minority within their borders, and the need of the Macedonians to manifest their faith in their own houses of warship and in their own language. Furthermore, the OSCE and the ODIHR should organize a fact-finding mission to Bulgaria and Greece, organize offices in both countries, and advise both governments on legal reforms regarding the Macedonians.

Every year we attend these conferences with the hope that the Greek and Bulgarian governments will finally respect their own signature on the international human rights documents. That has not happened to this day. It is the obligation of the OSCE and ODIHR to insure that its member states adhere to all the human rights documents that they have signed.

Thank you for your attention.