Good news for religious freedom in Greece

By August 25, 2014
(Photo courtesy AMG International)

(Photo courtesy AMG International)

Greece (MNN) — Even though Greece has a long, rich history connected to the early Church, things haven’t exactly been easy for followers of Christ there.

In 1938, laws restricting freedom of religion were passed in Greece and have never been repealed. Unchallenged, the Greek Orthodox Church grew dominant (95% national affiliation). Proselytizing is illegal unless it is an attempt to convert a person to Greek Orthodoxy.

That also means that other religious groups like Protestants, Catholics, Evangelicals, etc. do not have the same standing in the law. AMG International President and CEO Tasos Ioannidis shares a good example of a challenge facing someone who wants to build a church: part of the law requires that anyone wishing to operate a place of worship must first obtain two permits: one from the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, and the other from the local bishop of the Greek Orthodox Church. Those permissions are rarely granted. As a result, it is hard to start churches.

(Photo courtesy AMG International)

(Photo courtesy AMG International)

Christians have been praying for change for decades. Ioannidis says God’s answer has been a big one. AMG’s Fotis Romeos first noted a proposal in his July report. Romeos co-founded the CosmoVision Center on the outskirts of Athens, Greece. He works with AMG’s Eastern European ministries and serves as the Greek representative at the European Evangelical Alliance and the general secretary of the Greek Evangelical Alliance.

Romeos wrote, “We are facing a new law, which is proposed by the Ministry of Religion in Greece regarding the legal status of evangelical churches in Greece. We have been literally fighting for many years for such a law and now the time arrived.”

Usually, when a ministry discusses new religion laws, it means more restriction. However, Ioannidis explains, “This new law removes a lot of the barriers that have existed over the years. It is not perfect, but it’s a big step forward from where Greece has been. We are praying that the law is approved and that implementation goes forward.”

According to Romeos, here’s what’s at stake: under the proposed law, “For the first time in our modern history our evangelical Bible-believing churches would have a legal status in Greece.” He goes on to say, “We just seek for more tools to advance the ministries of the Gospel in our needy country and region. I would like to ask you to keep praying for this matter.” This new law will give Gospel workers in Greece new opportunities to share the story of Jesus.

(Photo courtesy AMG International)

(Photo courtesy AMG International)

This brings us to the second issue: resources. Ioannidis explains, “The situation in Greece continues to be challenging. The economic crisis started in 2009, [and] we seem to have hit bottom in Greece. But even now, in the last quarter, Greece is still in recession.”

Unemployment is around 28%. The government is trying to stimulate economic growth, but it might not kick in until the latter part of the year.

Why does it matter? Ioannidis reminds us that Greece is an international entry point to Europe. “With everything that is happening in Syria and Iraq, there are a lot more refugees that are coming to Greece. There is a lot of need in the Athens area, and the churches are overwhelmed.”

IoannidisĀ noted the mandate behind the request in an earlier blog post:

“When Christians go to the nations with the message of the Gospel, our obedience is the natural overflow of the abundance of grace God has shown to us. In the same way, His material blessings are poured out in love to comfort those in need through giving. The Lord blesses us to be the instruments of His blessing to others.”

Churches have been stretched thin meeting needs since the fiscal crisis began. Now, there are more people who need help. Even a few dollars helps. If you can, click here if you can come alongside AMG International in Greece.

9 Comments

  • Why would you insist on proselytizing in
    Nations that are already Christian and have been
    For almost 2 thousand years..got the travel bug? Go to
    Muslim and Buddhist areas…

  • Elizabeth says:

    Clearly, Ms. Phufas did not read this article.
    Greece is an entry point for the suffering and surrounding regions and their people, hence these suffering go there. Since Greek churches are stretched, they ask our help, which is what this article is about….helping. Jesus wants it that way… helping the orphans and hurting. So Christians help. We don’t need to explain ourselves, but I hope this explains and inspires others to help, too.

    • Aelialicinia says:

      No you are the one who cannot read. “The Church – overwhelmed” is a QUOTE not reality. Furthermore Nobody would stop or prevent anyone from contributing to the Orthodox Christian church to help. Your comment is based no a misreading and a false premise.

  • Freedom from lies says:

    We should all support separation of church and state. No government should show preference to any religion. The role of government is to defend the living not to preach metaphysics.

    That said, someone that uses their free time praying to imaginary space leprechauns is on weak moral and intellectual ground. All religions are leftovers of more primitive times. When humanity lacked a good understanding of the natural world they substituted the Gods. Unfortunately religions persist to this day because generation after generation people are indoctrinated by their parents and peers into believing nonsense..

  • ferdi jonker says:

    That is great news. It is so sad that only about 3% of all Greeks who life in Greece are born again Christians. I hope and pray and stand with you that this law will be passed and it will great opportunities to preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ in that most beautiful country. Been their once in 2009 with Helenic Ministries, most awesome experience in my life. would love to come again. God bless Greece!!!!!!

    • Aelialicinia says:

      The Nation of Greece is already Christian – the real born again Christian in the faith called Orthodox Christianity. NO need to proselytize there. Focus on the needs in your own neighborhood.

  • Your Name says:

    That is great news. It is so sad that only about 3% of all Greeks who life in Greece are born again Christians. I hope and pray and stand with you that this law will be passed and it will great opportunities to preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ in that most beautiful country. Been their once in 2009 with Helenic Ministries, most awesome experience in my life. would love to come again. God bless Greece!!!!!!

  • Nico Bougas says:

    Ferdi, Actually the number of professing evangelical believers in Greece is actually more like 0.2%. That is something like 2 people per thousand.

  • Gill Myers says:

    Isn’t it about time that we evangelicals/charismatics acknowledged that many people in the Orthodox church are actually saved. In the gospels, people came to Jesus and their faith saved them. In my travels, I have met many ordinary believers in the Orthodox church who would put many evangelicals/charismatics to shame in their enthusiasm for the Lord and the praxis evident in their lives. (That is not to say I believe in the trappings of Orthodoxy – or of the evangelical/charismatic churches I have been a part of.)

    While I see the benefits of this law, there is also a downside – that dubious strands of Christianity and other religions would also seek to gain a foothold in the nation.

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