ATHENS (Mar. 24)
Greek Jews, along with other religious minorities, will no longer be obliged to identify themselves by religion on national identity cards carried by all Greek citizens and residents, the Greek minister of the interior has announced.
Minister Yiannis Kefalogiannis made the statement in a meeting with World Jewish Congress delegates Monday.
WJC leaders emerged from the meeting and reported that Greek law was being changed in response to concerns expressed by the Jewish community.
WJC Secretary-General Israel Singer and Executive Director Elan Steinberg, in Athens for the first international consultation between Jewish representatives and the churches of Orthodox Christianity, met at length with Kefalogiannis.
They were accompanied by Nissim Mais, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, the WJC affiliate here.
At issue was current Greek law regulating national identity cards. Under legislation adopted more than a year ago, such cards included a listing of the holder’s religious affiliation.
Greek Jews, along with Catholic and Moslem minorities in a country whose population is 95 percent Orthodox Christian, strenuously opposed mandatory religious identification as a blatant discriminatory measure posing a threat to national pluralism.
Jewish leaders noted that no other country in the European Community issued national identity cards with a listing of religious affiliation.
Kefalogiannis informed the WJC leaders that the government was immediately introducing legislation in Parliament that would abolish the mandatory listing of religious affiliation and instead leave the indication of religion as an optional item on identity cards.
Identification of religion will in the future be at the discretion of individual card holders.
“The new law will be adopted within the next two weeks,” Kefalogiannis said.
WJC delegates “noted with appreciation the sensitive reaction to Jewish concerns expressed by Minister Kefalogiannis.”
Mais, head of the Greek Jewish community, expressed his gratitude to the World Jewish Congress for pursuing this matter here and abroad in a spirit of “Jewish solidarity.”