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Orthodox Christianity and Human Rights in Europe

A Dialogue Between Theological Paradigms and Socio-Legal Pragmatics



This collective book aims at examining in what terms, and to what extent, the "reception" of the Human Rights doctrine takes place in Eastern Orthodox countries, as well as in the Orthodox diaspora. A series of questions are raised regarding the resources and theological structures that are mobilized in the overall Human Rights’ debate and controversy, the theological "interpretation" of Human Rights within the Eastern Orthodox spiritual tradition, and the similarities and/or divergences of this "interpretation", compared to the other Christian confessions. Special attention is given to the various Orthodox actors on the international arena, aside the national Orthodox churches, which participate in the Ecumenical dialogue, as well as the dialogue with the European and international institutions.

Religious freedom, as a fundamental Human right, guaranteed by the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), constitutes a key-issue that contributes to broadening the reflections on the overall Human Rights-related problematic between East and West, by shading light on the more complex issue pertaining to the conceptualization and implementation of Human Rights in countries belonging to the Eastern Orthodox tradition.

The present volume studies the diversity that characterizes the Orthodox theological traditions and interpretations regarding Human Rights, not only in terms of an "external", or a "strategical" approach of socio-political and ecclesial nature, but also through a reflexive analysis of theological discourses.

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Pluralism and Religious Freedom. Insights from Orthodox Europe (Effie Fokas)


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Pluralism and Religious Freedom

Insights from Orthodox Europe


1.  Introduction

A snapshot of European societies today reveals the importance of religious minority treatment and the grave potential that the latter can carry for instability and even social unrest in a situation of rapidly increasing religious diversity. The Pew Forum’s influential study on the ‘Rising tide of restrictions on religion’ highlighted the problem on a global scale. Most conspicuous are the reactions of Muslim groups against what they perceive to be intolerant majorities, but other (less attended by the mass media) religious minority experiences are no less compelling evidence of tensions around religious pluralism in localities across Europe. Registration restrictions, curtailed rights to expressions of faith, and exclusion from mass media are amongst several limitations on religious freedom experienced by religious minorities in Europe.

Such limitations of religious freedoms are particularly prominent in countries where Orthodox Christianity is the majority faith. Indicatively, majority Orthodox states are accountable for 63% of all European Court of Human Rights convictions for religious freedoms violations1. What is the reason behind this state of affairs? Is there something intrinsic to ← 109 | 110 → Orthodoxy as a religious and social institution that makes it intolerant towards minorities? Or are there historical and political particularities in individual Orthodox majority countries that underlie the barriers to religious freedoms in each case?

This chapter draws on empirical research conducted in four majority Orthodox...

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