religion :: hate is a global issue
|Discrimination toward religious minorities is prevalent in some European nations|
by Matt Moody
In 1987 a Jehovah’s Witness hall in the village of Gazi in Crete was vandalized and shots were fired in response to a Greek Orthodox priest’s plea for help in ridding his town of the group.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses turned to the government for protection and were charged with practicing their religion without the proper consent. The ruling was later overturned by the European Court, after being upheld in the Greek Supreme Court.
In 1997, the Italian Parliament sentneced 29 Scientologists to nine to 20 months in jail for criminal association, including the stiffest term for Gabriele Segalla, who is thought to have brought Scientology to Italy.
In Bulgaria, foreign missionaries have been refused visas and residence permits and “some were physically assaulted,” according to the Helsinki Commission (PDF). “Mormons had personal belongings confiscated and police beat Jehovah's Witnesses,” said Helsinki Chairman Alfonse D’Amato in 1997.
While widespread European atrocities against religions in Europe have been widely reported, namely the Holocaust and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, thousands of smaller violations go nearly unnoticed.
Governments and majority churches throughout Europe seek to oppress small religious groups from practicing and spreading their beliefs out of fear and hatred.
“It’s a matter of freedom and human rights,” said Pat Harney, public affairs director of the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization in Clearwatar Fla., the world’s largest Scientology church.
In France a bill was passed that named certain religions as cults, including Scientology, Harney said. The bill also states that if a member of a religion is accused of a crime two or more times, even if he is not convicted, then his religion can be legally banned.
In Germany the Church of Scientology and Jehovah’s Witnesses are battling a court order that allows the government to keep surveillance on the organizations without cause.
“Our response has been to educate the people of these countries and throughout the world,” Harney said. “We have distributed millions of booklets to citizens of Germany and France detailing the human rights violations of their governments.”
“I believe we will prevail,” she said.