Church of Panaghia Kapnikarea, Athens

Greek Government promises action on human rights as attacks on religious sites rise

The Greek Government has promised more action on human rights issues as attacks on religious sites in the country recorded an alarming rise.

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“Human rights are not a zero-sum game between a majority and various minorities”, Greek Government General Secretary for Religious Affairs Giorgos Kalantzis said December 19 in comments reported by Ekathimerini.

“[Human rights] are the basis of our very civilization, a sine qua non requirement for social peace and one of the most significant factors in the growth of the economy and the prosperity of all citizens”, Kalantzis explained.

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The General Secretary for Religious Affairs was speaking after a Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs report recorded a 6% rise in attacks on religious spaces in Greece in 2018.

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Of the 591 acts of violence against places of worship recorded last year, 564 were directed at churches, and 95% of those specifically at Greek Orthodox temples.

The 2018 attacks on Orthodox churches included a December bombing in the central Athens Dionysiou Areopagitou Church which injured two people.

Other violent acts against Christians in Greece were directed at Jehovah’s Witnesses (three incidents) and Catholics (one).

Why it matters

What has Greek authorities perhaps most worried of all, though, is the 81% rise in 2018 in attacks targeting Jews.

In all, 20 violent anti-Semitic incidents were recorded last year, up from 11 in 2017.

In contrast, attacks against Muslim holy sites went down in 2018, to two in total in comparison to eight in 2017.

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Of the 591 crimes against religious spaces in Greece in 2018, just 38 have to date been resolved by police.

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