Jan 31, 2008

Greece: The separation of church and state

The head of the Greek church died on Monday and today (Thursday) is being buried. The Greek government declared January 31st, the day of the archbishop's funeral, an official holiday for Greek public services.

On a lighter note, school kids are smiling because they got an extra day off (yesterday was the religious school holiday of Trion Ierarhon, patrons of learning and students). However, on a very serious note... Huh? What does the death of a religious leader have to do with public services Greek taxpayers -regardless of faith- pay for?

Greek Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs. That's how close knit the church and state are. The state religion has its own ministry. Don't even get me started on how public schools are obligated to teach Greek Orthodoxy from grade 1 to the very last year of high school (lykeio). There is -of course- one year in high school that introduces the "other" religions always within the prism of how they compare (not) to Greek Orthodox doctrine. You could request that your child not attend the lesson of "Religion" IF you can prove you're of another doctrine or atheist. If you're unlucky and chance on a hyper-religious educator and principal, then your kid is screwed. So, for the sake of your child's sanity you opt for him/her to attend the course.

Hypocritical? You bet. But wait, there's more.

Most Greeks keep on keeping on the religion, NOT because they actually believe BUT because it is easier to get things done with the state. It is no secret that those who haven't been baptized (my children) or married in the Greek Orthodox Church (Husband and me) have a bitch of a day when it comes to settling bureaucratic issues with the Greek state.

Luckily, however, the times they are a-changin', and as a member of the EU, Greece is obligated to adopt European directives; one of those being that authorities finally got rid of the religious status from identity cards and other official papers. The late archbishop had waged a fierce war against this measure and in one of his public, mass rallies is quoted: "They [the government] are trying to take away our society's Christian and Orthodox identity, using various groundless arguments, because they hate God and want to marginalize the Church."

Hate. Tsk, tsk. Strong verb for a church that has discriminated against those who were not Orthodox, including Catholics and worshipers of other branches of Christianity, subconsciously scarring simple church folk to believe that anyone different (race or color) is bad, or at least not as good as Greek Orthodox.

Greece is one of the few remaining state religions in the world and as a citizen of Greece I'm not proud of this. I respect every man's and woman's right to believe OR not in ANY or NO creed of their choice. I object, HOWEVER, that just because I'm born into a particular country I have to be held hostage to a particular faith.

This post was inspired by the following e-mail and post that made its way around the Greek Internet and blogosphere:

THE EMPLOYEES OF MUNICIPALITY OF RACHES IKARIA REFERRING TO NO.5811/29-1-08 DOCUMENT OF YP.ES.D.D.A. (note: Ministry of the Interior, Public Administration and Decentralization) DECLARE THE FOLLOWING: CIVIL SERVANTS ARE EMPLOYEES OF STATE AND NOT THE CHURCH. THE DEATH OF AN ECCLESIASTICAL LEADER CANNOT AND IT SHOULD NOT RECOMMEND REASON OF HOLIDAY. BY THE DECISION OF THE EMPLOYEES OF THE MUNICIPALITY OF RACHES THE SERVICES OF THE MUNICIPALITY WILL REMAIN OPEN ON 31-1-2008

ΟΙ ΥΠΑΛΛΗΛΟΙ ΤΟΥ ΔΗΜΟΥ ΡΑΧΩΝ ΙΚΑΡΙΑΣ ΑΝΑΦΕΡΟΜΕΝΟΙ ΣΤΟ ΥΠ'ΑΡ. 5811/29-1-08 ΕΓΓΡΑΦΟ ΤΟΥ ΥΠ.ΕΣ.Δ.Δ.Α. ΔΗΛΩΝΟΥΝ ΤΑ ΕΞΗΣ:
ΟΙ ΔΗΜΟΣΙΟΙ ΥΠΑΛΛΗΛΟΙ ΕΙΝΑΙ ΥΠΑΛΛΗΛΟΙ ΤΟΥ ΚΡΑΤΟΥΣ ΚΑΙ ΟΧΙ ΤΗΣ ΕΚΚΛΗΣΙΑΣ.
Ο ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ ΕΝΟΣ ΕΚΚΛΗΣΙΑΣΤΙΚΟΥ ΗΓΕΤΗ ΔΕΝ ΜΠΟΡΕΙ ΚΑΙ ΔΕΝ ΠΡΕΠΕΙ ΝΑ ΣΥΝΙΣΤΑ ΛΟΓΟ ΑΡΓΙΑΣ.
ΜΕ ΑΠΟΦΑΣΗ ΤΩΝ ΥΠΑΛΛΗΛΩΝ ΤΟΥ ΔΗΜΟΥ ΡΑΧΩΝ ΟΙ ΥΠΗΡΕΣΙΕΣ ΤΟΥ ΔΗΜΟΥ ΘΑ ΠΑΡΑΜΕΙΝΟΥΝ ΑΝΟΙΧΤΑ ΣΤΙΣ 31-1-2008


p.s. It is not a prank. People called the Municipality and the employees had indeed gone in for work as usual and joked that all the calls they had gotten today kept them from actually working.

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