International Religious Freedom Report: Up to 90% of Greeks identify as Christian Orthodox

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The 2020 annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom on Greece notes that “the constitution states freedom of religious conscience is inviolable and provides for freedom of worship, with some restrictions while recognising Greek Orthodoxy as the prevailing religion.”

It referred to the Golden Dawn case, saying that, “on October 7, an appeals court in Athens ruled that the Golden Dawn political party, commonly characterised as neo-Nazi, was a criminal organisation, finding seven of its 18 party leaders guilty of directing a criminal organisation.”

“The court found Golden Dawn members responsible for a series of physical attacks and verbal harassment since 2012 against perceived outsiders, including Muslim asylum seekers and Jews,” the report added.

It also referred to the ability of minority religious communities to establish houses of worship and government initiatives affecting both the Muslim minority in Thrace and Muslim immigrants.

The report underlined the fact that, on January 27, Prime Minister Mitsotakis attended memorial events marking the 75th anniversary since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

As it said, he became the first Greek premier to visit the site, “stating he did so to honour the memory of all Greek Jews who perished there.”

“According to Jewish leaders, the government continued to help the Jewish community of Thessaloniki in its efforts to recover its original archives, found by Soviet troops in a castle in Lower Silesia, Germany, following Germany’s defeat and subsequently transferred to Moscow,” the report added.

The U.S. government estimates the total population is 10.6 million (midyear 2020 estimate) and according to research polls, the religious make up is 81 to 90% Greek Orthodox, 4 to 15% atheist, and 2% Muslim.

Approximately 140,000 Muslims live in Thrace, according to government sources using 2011 data; they are largely descendants of the officially recognized Muslim minority according to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, the report said.

According to a Pew Research Center study released in November 2017, an additional 520,000 Muslims – mostly asylum seekers, refugees, and other migrants from Southeastern Europe, South and Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa – reside throughout Greece, clustered in communities by their countries of origin or in reception facilities.

Government sources estimate that half reside in Athens.

Members of other religious communities that together constitute less than 5% of the population include Old Calendarist Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, members of polytheistic Hellenic religions, Scientologists, Baha’is, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sikhs, Seventh-day Adventists, Buddhists, and members of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

Independent and media sources estimate Ethiopian Orthodox number 2,500, and Assyrians less than 1,000.

According to the Armenian Orthodox Archbishop, interviewed in 2018, approximately 100,000 Armenian Orthodox live in the country.

READ MORE: Greece officially recognises Alevism, worship house opens in Evros.

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