Free
Archbishop Jovan (John) VI

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

The European Commission points out that there are violations of fre­edom of religion in FYRO Macedonia

Filed under: General — March 25, 2007 @ 3:18 pm


Maintaining the religious freedom is a fundamental right, and at the same time, a condition for the Republic of Macedonia in order to fulfill the criteria to join the Euro-Atlantic civilization currents. Unfortunately, Republic of Macedonia is continually violating the elementary religious freedoms of its own citizens and tax payers. In its last year report, the European Commission presented its attitude that “cases of violations of religious freedom exist” in its report (http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/key_documents/reports_nov_2006_en.htm). It also emphasized that the new law “should provide more liberal procedure for registering religious communities”.

According to the newest report of the Venice Commission, yet there are disputable items in the draft law of religious communities, especially at the point – registering religious communities. This report will be a subject of the following text.

The Government of the Republic of Macedonia, which protects the monopoly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, sacrificing the European future of the citizens of Republic of Macedonia, is becoming its hostage these days. It is obvious that the Government is only declaratively ready for reforms, while practically the reforms in terms of religious freedoms are tending to be evaded.

At the same time, with the critics, in terms violating religious freedoms in the Republic of Macedonia by the International Community, the Fund “Archbishop Jovan” from the United States of America has issued its newest

Appeal

For interruption the persecution practiced over the citizens – members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric by the authorities in Macedonia, on the base of religion.

We are saddened to report that the Archbishop’s victimization by the Macedonian authorities and persecution by the Macedonian Orthodox Church nonetheless continue. At this hour Archbishop Jovan remains in prison for “crimes” that would be dismissed as ludicrous in any Western country!

While we would like to see Archbishop Jovan released in time to commemorate Holy Week and celebrate Holy Pascha, we cannot hope for this outcome. According to the most recent information we have, there is a possibility that Archbishop Jovan may be released (for time served) on May 1st. However, it appears the Macedonian Orthodox Church is doing everything possible to assure the Archbishop remains in jail. This church is committed to controlling its members’ religious expression and to securing its territorial imperative. Evidently, the concept of religious freedom that is viewed as such a fundamental right in America and Western Europe, does not exist in Macedonian society!

As people who cherish religious freedom as a most basic human right, we must continue to staunchly and uncompromisingly oppose religious persecution everywhere in the world where it exists, just as we continue to actively protest child labor, the oppression of females, ethnic “cleansing” and other practices that deny anyone basic human rights and dignity.

Our support of Archbishop Jovan, through the fund that exists to secure his permanent freedom, is an endorsement of religious freedom as a basic human right. It does not matter a whit whether we ourselves are Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant. The issue is religious freedom as the fundamental right of all people, regardless of where they live or what church they choose to attend. It is our belief in religious freedom for all, not any endorsement of one church or one denomination over any other, that we express when we support the Archbishop and others who are suffering coercion and oppression in Macedonia as a consequence of their beliefs. This is not a political issue; it is a human rights issue.

The recent physical attack on Bishop Marko while he was conducting a memorial service at a local cemetery was a shameful event and a terrible reflection on local authorities, both law enforcement and the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Is THIS how the nation and the Church want to be seen by the rest of the world?

Recently too, Bishop Joachim was reported to have become the victim of harassment by cemetery security and members of the Macedonian Orthodox Church while leading a private funeral service. One can only thank God that no one was physically injured as a result of this reprehensible incident!

We ask: how does one reconcile such behavior with the teachings of Christ? Does real Christianity even exist in the national government and “official” church of the Republic of Macedonia?

Regardless of what denomination we personally prefer, regardless of what church we choose to attend, let us as Christians stand together with them in asserting our shared conviction that all people have a basic right to worship God according to their personal beliefs and understanding. If it were not so, God would not have given us free will and the intelligence to think for ourselves.

As Christians, we are bound to carry out Christ’s command to love our neighbors. Thus we will not condemn the Macedonian authorities or the national church. We wish them well and grant them the same freedom to follow the path they choose as we demand for those under the pastoral care of Archbishop Jovan. But we insist, as free people who believe in human rights as passionately as we believe in God, that this same freedom be granted to all persons living within the borders of Macedonia.

We understand that no one is free unless all are free.

Your Brothers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
President of the Archbishop Jovan Fund USA
Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Boise, Idaho

+Archpriest Victor Potapov
First Vice President
St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Church, Washington, D. C.

+Hieromonk Damascene
Second Vice President
St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Platina, California

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