In Greece Priests Protest New Religious Textbooks

Conservatives support the continuance of only Orthodox Christianity

A large number of conservative Greeks have marched to the parliament in Athens to protest the content present in the new edition school books . The protesters, approximately 2,000 of them, claimed that such content could lead to readers losing faith in Orthodox Christianity, the official religion of Greece.

Both primary education and secondary education systems in Greece have religious instructions embedded in them. Religious subjects find a place in all the 12 grades a student must pass to graduate unless declared a non-follower. The new books, particularly in higher classes, provide a better understanding of other Christian denominations other than the Greek Orthodox church. The books also impart knowledge on several of other religions. It is to be noted that previous textbooks in school curricula either spoke about other strains of religion in a cursory manner or with negative connotations. Other religions were not mentioned at all.

Noticeable among the protesters is the presence of many Greek Orthodox bishops and priests. A few marchers held banners denouncing the authors of the textbooks as traitors to Greece. Many banners bore the lettering “No to ecumenical religion.” The participants delivered their petition to parliament and disbanded peacefully.

The protests were completely peaceful. No protester engaged in violence or any sort of hooliganism. Although the study of Orthodox Christianity is compulsory in Greece, there can be exceptions as well. Students can opt out of religious instruction if they request the school authorities. In schools run by conservatives, the process to opt out is a little more complex. Students can opt out only if their parents proclaim that their child does not belong to the Greek Orthodox church. Greek schools are notoriously conservative. The country forbids any private religious schools. Greek laws, even now, forbid religious instruction other than Orthodox Christianity within the school premises. A few exceptions exist in Thrace and Tinos. Religious places with Muslim instructions are found in Thrace, Catholic teachings are taught in Syros and Tinos.

The Greek constitution recognizes only the Greek Orthodox church as the “prevailing religion”. Other than the Greek Orthodox church, Thrace's Muslim minority and the Greek Jewish community are also counted by Athens as religious legal entities. When it comes to the status of other Christian religious groups, they automatically get religious legal entities status as per a 2014 law. This law also urges the yet unrecognized religious groups to get due recognition via the Greek courts.

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