The New “Law on Religious Communities and Religious Groups” of the Republic of Macedonia Contains Obvious Elements of Religious Discrimination and Restrictions Equal to Terror on Religious Grounds
Sent to the Foreign Diplomatic Missions in the Republic of Macedonia and to all the Relevant International Institutions
The Macedonian daily newspaper “Vecer” (No. 13025 from 22 October 2005) published an interview with Mr. Jovan Korubin, a professor at the University of Skopje, who composed the new “Law on Religious Communities and Religious Groups”. This interview, parts of which will be quoted, clearly shows that the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, with this new law, not only does it intend to resume its discriminatory politic, but as you will see, it intends to make it even stricter, distancing itself away from the Euro-Atlantic standards of religious freedom.
In the interview, the esteemed professor Jovan Korubin admits that the discriminatory elements in the Law were written under the pressure of some of the state-sponsored religious communities (the Macedonian Orthodox Church, hereinafter MOC). He says: “There are solutions which I might not support completely, and these were made because I had in mind certain requests posed by the religious communities and religious groups themselves. Therefore, the law itself and some of the solutions, I wouldn’t say under pressure, but rather under strong suggestion of the religious communities themselves”.
Can you imagine the level to which the government of the Republic of Macedonia has put the issues concerning the making of laws compatible to the European when the statements of the professor Jovan Korubin, undoubtedly illustrate that this Law is based on fallacy, and is a result of the intense pressure based on this fallacy. In the interview professor Jovan Korubin specifies: “There is a given fallacy, and this fallacy will have to surpassed, especially by the religious institutions. This is the identification of the religion with the nation. This is perhaps this Macedonian syndrome. In a conversation with some clerics I heard this thesis – if orthodoxy does not have the MOC there won’t be Macedonia. This is a most erroneous thesis. Neither the nation, nor the church will perish.
These dangerous theses lead to the problematic interminglement of a specific religious organization (MOC) with the state. Therefrom is the religious discrimination that the Government of the Republic of Macedonia conducts against the other religious communities. Here we would like to emphasize that as members of the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric we express our citizen’s position on respect of the freedom of choice regarding the faith of all our fellow citizens.
The terror that the Government of the Republic of Macedonia systematically plans to conduct over the other religious communities is clearly illustrated with the following position expressed in the interview. Namely, at the reporter’s question, which shows that the text of the Law depended on many “other factors” and goes as follows: “Is there anything that you wouldn’t have put in the text if it was only up to you?”, the professor Jovan Korubin answers: “I wouldn’t have put the regulation that one confession can have only one registered religious community. I think that this is a slight anachronism, even showing weakness of the religious communities themselves. No religious community should be afraid if it has a sufficient number of believers. MOC cannot get frightened by the appearance of some, I should say, similar to it.”
With such anti-democratic elements in the new “Law on Religious Communities and Religious Groups”, the regime in the Republic of Macedonia, which is most closely intermingled with the MOC, according to the professor Jovan Korubin, has a tendentious intention to give privilege to a state-sponsored religious community (MOC) at the account of all the rest.
The Government of the Republic of Macedonia forbade the registration of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric with an explanation that this is the same religious community as the MOC, in spite of the fact that the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric provided and delivered written documents from the other orthodox churches, that these are different religious communities. Namely, it is an essential theological difference that the Ohrid Archbishopric is in doctrinarian concord and liturgical community with the Patriarchate of Constantinople and all the local orthodox churches in the world, while the MOC is not. Furthermore the request for registration was rejected as well because the MOC had protected the name Ohrid Archbishopric as a trademark for production of alcohol, hand-wiping paper, playing cards and similar through registering 17 trademarks (see Official Bulletin of the State Institute for Industrial Property, 31 June 2005). This was officially commented on by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia.
On the other hand, the Government itself has already violated the article of the Law which does not allow the registration of two communities of the same confession. There are two Adventist and two Islamic religious communities among the registered religious communities (on the web presentation of the Government Commission for Relations of the Religious Communities and Religious Groups), and there are more than a few with the prefix – “Evangelic”. The unfeasibility of the new law in the contemporary civilization values is more than obvious. But now we face the question – is the Government of the Republic of Macedonia going to start to persecute, imprison and execute the religious communities which want to be registered, as well as those which are registered, and are not according to its taste in the 21st century?!
With this behavior, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, directly violates the Conventions it signed, more precisely Article 9 of the European Convention which allows freedom of religious confession, as well as the freedom to change the religious beliefs. Let us not forget that the Republic of Macedonia is the is the only country in Europe which as a result of politically rigged trials and discrimination on religious grounds, has imprisoned Archbishop Jovan in the central Macedonian prison Idrizovo because of his religious beliefs.
The impermissible interference of the regime of the Republic of Macedonia in the practicing of the religious freedoms of the citizens is testified by the professor Jovan Korubin in the abovementioned interview in the newspaper “Vecer”. Regarding the discrimination of Archbishop Jovan Vraniskovski and the members of the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric, professor Jovan Korubin says: “I think that this case was given too much weight and at a given moment it was burdened with more political connotation than a religious one. I have to say that I am somewhat astonished by the incapability of the church factors to solve this case, because in all these situations the state should maximally avoid interference. This is not hers to do. However, in our country, it so happened that the state got quite involved. Therefore I think that we have had certain repercussion in this field, especially around the case of Vraniskovski. It is very difficult to decide what a verbal offence is in the sense of spreading religious hatred. And this is because you can say that there is spreading of religious hatred and intolerance only when certain consequences appear. For example, inter-religious conflict, wider disputes etc. In this case we had none of that. The statements of Vraniskovski, which I certainly do not agree with, cannot be appraised as something that could have such consequences. On the other hand, I also think that there was not a basis to develop hatred in believing people etc. Simply, the believing people themselves ignored the case. It seems to me that the state factor gave it more of a weight than the believing people themselves…
… We enter an era of completely new relationships in which the churches and the religious communities should be more turned towards the faith and the religious mission. If we guide ourselves by some equation between the religious and the national, who knows where our end will be. But here, there are Macedonians who are orthodox, catholic, protestant, Muslims, atheists… It is the same with the other nationalities. Unfortunately, we still cannot leave this so-called vicious circle.” Here we would like to mention that in all the attacks of the type: imprisonment of Archbishop Jovan, expelling of monks and putting them into temporary arrest, demolishing of temples, beating up priests, forced cutting of the hair of nuns, the police harassment over believing citizens… were done by the Government of the Republic of Macedonia against the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric (see,www.poa-info.org, www.freearchbishop.com). These simply is not a case when members of the autonomous Ohrid Archbishopric did such a crime.
The new Law on the Religious Communities and Religious Groups is a result of the “vicious circle”, mentioned by the professor, enwrapped around the government of the Republic of Macedonia. We sincerely believe that out of these reasons, the esteemed professor Jovan Korubin finds it necessary to emphasize at the end of the interview: “Before the Constitutional Court everyone has the right to deny everything. It would be really bad if this issue is treated as many other issues and laws in this country – to regulate the relations according to given party platforms.”
This is why, Your Eminences, we assure you that the democratically-oriented citizens of the Republic of Macedonia will do everything to deny before the Constitutional Court the abovementioned discriminatory elements, which as a result of the “party platforms” appear in the new “Law on the Religious Communities and Religious Groups” of the Republic of Macedonia.
Still, because of the previously mentioned corruption of the Macedonian judiciary by the relevant international institutions, we feel a need, at the closing in of 9 November 2005, when our Government is to hear the position of the European Union on the answers from the European Questionnaire, to put forward the level of the religious freedoms, that is, the lack of these freedoms, as a result of the direct involvement of the establishment of the Republic of Macedonia.
Hoping that the issue of the religious freedoms will have an appropriate position as one of the conditions to achieve the European level of democracy, we remain with respect for you and we heartily greet you.
Congregation of citizens-members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, who send this letter through the Informative Service of their religious community