The US State Department on Wednesday released its Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, a comprehensive review of the status of religious freedom in countries and territories around the world.
The country chapter on Greece notes that the Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The Constitution establishes the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ (Greek Orthodox Church) as the prevailing religion, but also provides for the right of all citizens to practice the religion of their choice.
It said that there was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the government, which generally respected religious freedom in practice, but noted that some religious groups faced administrative restrictions, such as permits for the establishment or operation of places of worship.
It also said there were multiple reports in the media of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief or practice, and noted the arson attack against the Toxotes mosque in Thrace in September 2009, which Greek government officials condemned and installed new security cameras afterward, and vandalism of the Sunni Mosque in Xanthi with graffiti in December 2009, and of tombstones in the Muslim cemetery in Komotini in February 2010, and also two arson attacks on the Jewish Synagogue, in Chania, Crete. It further noted a demonstration in May 2009 of approximately 1,000 Muslim migrants in Athens, protesting an incident in which a police officer allegedly damaged a copy of the Qur'an while performing an identity check.
Also, expressions of anti-Semitism continued to occur, particularly in the extremist press, the report said, and noted that in January 2010 an Athens court convicted the editor of an extremist magazine for distributing anti-Semitic leaflets in 2007.
The report further noted that Archbishop Ieronymos in May 2009 hosted Anglican leaders to discuss the importance of interfaith dialogue, societal challenges and cooperation on charity issues, while Greece's minister of state inaugurated the Holocaust Monument in Athens in May.
Also, it said that leaders of many non-Orthodox religious groups reported that while the Orthodox Church seldom engaged in official contact with other religious groups, cordial private contacts between Orthodox Church officials and members of minority religious groups have increased in frequency, and Orthodox leaders attended ceremonies hosted by other religious, such as the Jewish community's Holocaust Memorial Day and events during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.