Attacks on Mosques, Synagogue Hurt Religious Freedom in Bulgaria - US State Dept Report
The annual International Religious Freedom Report of the US State Department outlines certain concerns for the state of religious freedom in Bulgaria.
According to the report, which has been presented by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Bulgarian Constitution and legislation recognize religious freedom but the authorities do not always properly apply the regulations in that sphere.
The report as a whole underscores US concerns about religious freedom around the world, including in Europe with respect to the treatment of Muslims.
"During the past year, al-Qaida issued calls for further violence against religious minorities in the Middle East. Sufi, Shia, and Ahmadiyya holy sites in Pakistan have been attacked. So was a Syriac Catholic church in Baghdad just a few weeks ago. We received reports from China of government harassment of Tibetan Buddhists, house church Christians, and Uighur Muslims. And several European countries have placed harsh restrictions on religious expression," State Secretary Clinton said.
The Report's section on Bulgaria outlines several incidents of attacks on mosques and synagogues, and warns of what is seen as a rise in anti-Semitic sentiments in the country.
"The government generally respected the religious freedom of registered religious groups. There were some concerns that the government did not proactively intervene to prevent societal abuses. There also were continuing reports of intolerance from police and local authorities during the reporting period. There were continued reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Discrimination, harassment, and general public intolerance of some religious groups remained an intermittent problem. There was an increasing number of anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism against mosques," the US religious freedom report says with respect to Bulgaria.
It mentions specific cases of attacks against non-Christian temples – vandalism against the mosque in Nikopol in 2009, in Blagoevgrad also in 2009, in Karlovo in April 2010, in Plovdiv and in Kazanlak.
Cases of vandalism have also been reported with respect to Jewish schools in Sofia in March 2010, and a synagogue in Burgas in July this year.
The report mentions the lack of a compensation for the alternative synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which has not been carried out despite a ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in its favor.
Several "non-traditional" religious groups such as Jehovah's Witnesses have complained that the Bulgarian media cover their activities using negative or libelous claims and information.
The report's section on Bulgarian demographics outlines the following: "Eighty-five percent of the population identifies itself as Orthodox Christian. Orthodox Christianity, Hanafi Sunni Islam, Judaism, and Catholicism are generally understood as holding a historical place in the country's culture."
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