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Article in the Current Debates section concerning the religion in the school topic for Cyprus :

October 2016 : Religion in school

In October of this year, Eliza Savvidou, the ombudswoman of Cyprus, decided to take action concerning primary and secondary school children’s visits to religious events, regardless of their religious affiliation or non-affiliation. According to the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) policy, students of religious groups other than Greek Orthodox (i.e. Armenian, Maronite, and Latin Church) can be excused from religious education as part of their right to religious freedom. However, this right seems difficult to implement in schools of the Republic of Cyprus. Regardless of their religion or ethnicity, students are pressured to attend school-organized Church services or religion classes, despite the official neutrality of the State.

It is the official mission of the ombudsman to monitor the implementation of the MoE’s policy on exemptions, and to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the MoE on religious freedom in education. According to the Cyprus 2015 International Religious Freedom Report prepared by the U.S. State Department, the office of the ombudsman received complaints dealing with this issue in 2014.

The Orthodox Church has called for demonstrations against the ombudswoman’s claim of State neutrality. Archbishop Chrysostom opposes the ombudswoman’s authority to monitor whether or not children in school should go to church. The head of the Orthodox Church in Cyprus declared : “It is not her business whether children should go to church or not. The education ministry has its program, and it will not ask the ombudswoman if it should apply it or not.” (See Cyprus Mail). The issue of State neutrality in the context of public education is perceived by the Orthodox Church as a secularization of the Cypriot society imposed by the European Union.

D 13 octobre 2015    ANicolas Kazarian

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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