Archbishop Jovan (John) VI

Stop the terror, persecution
and discrimination on religious grounds
conducted by the Government of FYROMacedonia!

Letter to the Prime Minister of the Goverment of R. Macedonia, the President of the Parliament and Other Relevant International Institutions, in Regard to the New Law for Religious Communities

Filed under: General — December 13, 2006 @ 5:15 am

Protocol No. 186 dated on 11th of December, 2006
Idrizovo Prison, Skopje

the Prime Minister
of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia
Mr. Nikola Gruevski

Your Excellency,

At the beginning of the now passing year, that is almost a year ago, we have appealed to Your institution with a letter N. No. 1 dated on 3rd of January, 2006 pleading You with pain and crying in exhaustion for an aid in stopping the injustice, persecution and torture of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric. Motive for the aforesaid letter was the announcement of entering into parliamentary procedure the Bill of the Law on Religious Communities and Groups. As we had some specific remarks to more articles of the aforesaid Bill, we had communicated them to You in the letter.

However, the previous parliamentary majority did not introduce the Bill of the Law on Religious Communities and Groups for adopting by the Parliament. Although passing of the aforesaid Law was among the short termed priorities assigned by the Council of Europe, more than a year has passed since publishing of the report on the principals, priorities and conditions being integral part of the European partnership with the Republic of Macedonia and the legislative authorities have not passed yet a law applying the recommendations on compatibility with the legislative of the European Union, as well with the International declarations dealing with human rights and freedoms.

We consider that there is only one and sole reason for it and that is the determination of the Government to continue to protect the monopoly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. until recently, It was thought that the Government also protects the monopoly of the Islamic Religious Community, but on 4th of November, 2006 in the Sitel TV program ‘Forum for Europe’, the representative thereof has stated undoubtfully that the Islamic Religious Community does not intend to obstruct the accession of the Republic of Macedonia to the European Union and that they would agree with the amending of the controversial article of the Bill of the Law on Religious Communities providing for that only one religious community shall be registered for same religion, so that it would become compatibly with the European legislative.

On the contrary, the representative of the MOC, Metropolitan Peter, has demonstrated a militant position, alien to a clergyman. He said that the MOC will not agree the article of the Bill of the aforesaid Law providing for that only one religious community shall be registered for same religion to be amended even under circumstances the Republic of Macedonia not to accede the EU. While taking part in the aforesaid TV program, he has stated the following : “Have the Europeans forgotten their wars when the Roman pontificate was dividing? Do they want of us to start religious wars here?” (See also the Daily Newspaper ‘Vreme’ dated on 8th of November, 2006).

His religious but also his democratic intolerance is well known for a long time. Due to that intolerance he had dispelled the Australian Diocese of the MOC, but the aforesaid statement of his is too much, for he has not promoting his personal positions only, but as well the positions of the MOC as a whole. Even if we do not want to believe that the whole summit of the MOC is so intolerant and militant, the fact is that the Government, protecting the monopoly of the MOC protects such an extremely non-democratic phenomenon in the society.

It is explicitly wrong to think and speak that the very accepting of the reality of existence of another religious community such is the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric could cause inter-faith tensions and intolerance. On the other hand, obvious is the fact that favouring and monopolizing the MOC by the Government of the Republic of Macedonia makes that religious organization intolerant and destructive in regard to anything that is not under the administration of the Archpriests’ Synod thereof.

I would not enter some more detailed analysis here in regard to why it is necessary to amend and harmonize with the European legislative the aforesaid article of the Bill of the Law on Religious Community. Firstly because we have made such an analysis for several times now and therefore we deem it to be an absolved question, and secondly and more important, because it is obvious to anyone who is not on the unreasonable position to protect the monopoly of the MOC. The International conventions on human rights and freedoms as well as the European legislative not only protect, but also encourage the right to choice of religion and individual belief of a person. This is not the first time in modern history, and not to mention the events of several centuries ago, that misunderstandings and divisions within a religious organization happen. It is not the first time what Mrs. Mirjana Najcevska, Chairwoman in resignation of the Helsinki Committee in the Republic of Macedonia, the participant and collocutor has said to the aforesaid two representatives of the MOC and IRC, i.e., that legal possibility to register new religious community shall be provided to anyone who does not agree with the leadership of an already recognized religious community. It means that the law must provide for free establishment of new religious communities, not only when they result from differences between religious, but also from possible conflicts with leaderships of already recognised religious communities, if there is a desire to comply with the International declarations dealing with human rights and freedom of religion. If the new Law leaves again the same attitude of the old one which is not enforceable any more, (for the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia has repealed more articles thereof), i.e., to recognise only one religious community for same religion, it would be a possibility for law enforcement authorities to act as an arbiter and interpreter for religious affairs in regard to determination whether there are or no religious differences between some religions. Let us remind you that in spite the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric could have been registered under the old law, for it had submitted a document that its religion is different than the one of the MOC together with the other acts necessary for registration thereof, and the aforesaid document emphasises that it is a Church being recognized by all the Orthodox Churches in the world, and the MOC is in schism with them and is not recognized by them. Nevertheless the First Instance Governmental Commission as well as the Second Instance one, as well as the Supreme Court after them, decided that there cannot exist two religious communities of a same religion and thus refuted the registration of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric,

In order to be more concise, let us put it as follows : The new Law shall provide for that none religious community have monopoly and that no legal obstacle could exist for registration of any religious community that does not want be under jurisdiction of the leadership of some already existent religious community. In other words, not to leave possibility for the authority registering religious communities to enter in dogmatic examinations on whether some religions are same or different, or on the degree of their difference or equality. It would result with the same difficulties that exist today, and not with any progress. We are witnessing already that those difficulties have become unbearable, for they have culminated with terror and imprisonments.

There have not been any serious debating on this issue being of current interest for 4 years now (except for the aforesaid Sitel TV program ‘Forum for Europe), and it is probably due to the fact that nobody who has a monopoly does not want to debate in regard to it. The media refuse all the proposals for public debates by the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.

Let us briefly refer to one of the recent sporadic and selective writings in the media expressing protection of the MOC\’s monopoly.

On 25th of November, 2006 the daily newspaper ‘Dnevnik’ has published an article under the title : “Bill of the Law on Religious Communities” by the proto-deacon Slave P. Projkoski, with rather messed analysis and extremely disputable conclusions besides its historical inconsistency. Confusing faith and nation, identifying them today, in 21st century, seems rather parodyal, romanticistal and frustrated. In the century characteristic by the promotion of human rights and religious freedom, it seems rather clumsy and awkward to defend the monopoly of the MOC, which by the way, some individuals insist to keep unconditionally due to economic interest of theirs, with worn-out phrases such as “The one who is not for the monopoly of the MOC is against the state’. According to this analogy, anyone who belongs to some other religious community, for example to some evangelical or Methodist church, and who proselytes and wins believers who were members of the MOC before, or the ones who are not members of the MOC at all and are atheists, would be enemies of the state. And this is not only clumsy, but even immature.

At the end, hereby we remind You that not only Article 2 of the Bill of Law on Religious Communities and Groups is disputable. The aforesaid letter sent at the beginning of this year, we have also pointed out the Articles 7 paragraph 4, 9 paragraph 2 and Article 11. - We are not sure that another version different from the one dated in December 2005 has been drawn up due to the fact that nobody has consulted us in regard to the Bill of the Law. That is why we underline that the aforesaid quoting of the numbers of the Articles and paragraphs refers to the Bill of the Law which version was available in December last year.

Because it has been announced that the Bill of the Law will enter the Parliamentary procedure soon, hereby we ask You to do Your best which is in Your power not to enable yet another unjust, and this time even legally ensured, discrimination of the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric by virtue of the aforesaid Law.

Discriminated for the faith, however joyous to witness it, imprisoned physically, yet free spiritually,

Archbishop of Ohrid
† and Metropolitan of Skopje Jovan


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