Editor’s Note: WorldNetDaily international reporter Anthony C.
LoBaido, currently based in Cyprus, filed this report on the controversy
over the new national ID cards proposed by the Greek government.
By Anthony C. LoBaido
© 2000, WorldNetDaily.com, Inc.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — The sun beats down without mercy on this former
British colony in the Mediterranean, as hundreds of thousands of European
tourists flock to the blue-water beaches of this island hideaway. Many of
these tourists are young Austrians or Swedes in search of hedonistic
pleasures associated with the legendary birthplace of the Greek goddess
Yet there are other tourists — mainly from Greece — who have come to
Cyprus with their moral radar in full operational mode. Just as the British
army’s radar tracking station set high in the hills of Cyprus tracks
potential problems in the region, so too does the moral radar of Greece’s
Orthodox Christian community detect trouble on the horizon.
That trouble revolves around the recent proposal of Greece’s socialist
government, led by Prime Minister Costas Simitis, to strip all references to
religion from the new national ID card.
Over 97 percent of Greece’s native population has been baptized into the
Orthodox church, and all Greek citizens have been carrying this identity
card since the mid-1930s, when the then-military government instituted the
system. The ID cards must be carried at all times by Greek citizens over the
age of 15.
For Greek Christians, the religious declaration on the ID card is a
symbol of faith and pride. Whereas, for secular-minded, pro-European Union
Greeks, it is an outdated icon of the Christian past. Privacy advocates want
to see the religious-affiliation label stripped from the card, along with
occupation, spouse’s name, thumbprint and nationality — all of which will
be stripped from the new cards, if and when implemented on a mass scale.
“The socialist government wants to drive a wedge between the church and
the state,” Nicolas Apostolides, a Greek medical doctor on vacation in
Cyprus told WorldNetDaily.
Characterizing his government as favoring “allegiance to the European Union,
gay rights, one European currency, unlimited immigration, legalized drugs
[and] sex legalized between adults and children,” Apostolides concluded, “We
must stand now, or there will be nothing left to stand up for.”
Recently, the European Commission on Racism and Intolerance challenged
Greece to remove the religious affiliation entry on the national ID card “in
order to limit covert discrimination against members of non-Orthodox
religions, who may in some cases be considered to be less Greek.”
Standing against Orwell
Millions of Americans regard the prospect of a national ID card,
especially one identifying one’s religious affiliation, as Orwellian and
dangerous. Yet in Greece, and her sister Cyprus, this is simply not the
case. One major difference between the two nations is that the U.S.
believer community is diverse — Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and
many other religions and denominations — and do not form a single block of
any one faith. With a large majority of Greeks having been baptized into
the Orthodox faith, they represent a solid block of believers, not unlike
Afrikaner Calvinists. (Not surprisingly, South Africa under the former
white-run regime was another largely Christian nation that willingly
embraced a national ID booklet without protest, and even with great
Americans have come to fear Big Brother in many ways. While Greece has no
such fear in its mainstream culture, the ID card issue may well bring one to
life. Many Greek Christians believe that stripping the religious affiliation
label from their national ID card might be the beginning of the end of
Orthodox Greek Christianity’s influence in their culture.
Church vs. State
The Greek government is not popular and does not enjoy widespread
support among its citizens. Indeed, last April the Panhellenic Socialist
Movement (PASOK) came to power by one percent. Soon after, Simitis received
a visit from U.S. President Bill Clinton, who apologized for “the U.S.
support of the military government in Greece.” Massive protests against
Clinton in Greece — which required strong security countermeasures by the
CIA and Secret Service — were played down by the U.S. media.
With the nation so divided, it is not surprising that the ID card issue
marks the first time ever that the Greek Orthodox Church has openly
challenged the State. Orthodox Church leaders were tasked with preserving
Greek cultural, historical and linguistic identity during 400 years of
Muslim Ottoman rule. So the Church has refused to take the government’s ID
proposal lying down.
According to Church spokesman Metropolitan Kallinikos, “The Holy Synod,
in accordance with the expectations of its faithful children and to fulfill
its promises for the most broad popular expression, has decided to hold an
informal referendum of religious conscience.”
The Holy Synod — the ruling body of the Greek Orthodox Church —
recently announced that the petition drive will start in the fall and will
be targeted towards “responsible adults.” A local church committee, notary
publics and legal authorities will monitor the referendum, which the Synod
believes will collect over 5 million signatures — about half of Greece’s
population of 10.5 million. The Church claims that it has almost 10 million
members in Greece.
At a recent rally held to protest the government’s decision about the ID
cards, Archbishop Christodoulous of Athens threw down the gauntlet to
Simitis before a crowd of over 100,000 Greek Orthodox Christians.
“Your efforts are futile. The people do not follow you. You think you
will accomplish your plans with the sword of power. You are mistaken,” said
the archbishop. “Those opposed to religion on ID cards belong to the forces
The Simitis government in turn has called the church’s referendum drive
“divisive” and a “violation of Greece’s 1997 privacy protection agreement.”
A government spokesman at the Greek Embassy in Cyprus told WorldNetDaily
that his government would ignore the referendum. Respect for people’s
rights, he said, “has to be complete and absolute and does not obey the
principle of the majority or accept compromises.”
Earning the blessing of the European Union is vital to Greece, as it
seeks to join the European Monetary Union. Greece is also slated to host the
2004 Summer Olympics. The Orthodox Church owns prime real estate near the
Olympic complex and is dangling that land in front of eager government and
business interests who would like to utilize it for the Games.
Anfulis Demetriodes, an Orthodox Greek clergyman based in Nicosia, told
WorldNetDaily, “over 80 percent of Cypriots are Orthodox Church members.
Most of them will stand on the side of the church against the Greek
government on this issue, even though joining the European Union is a major
goal of Cyprus.”
“We keep hearing the same buzzwords as you get in American politics,”
said Demetriodes. “‘Diversity’ and ‘tolerance.’ Of course there is tolerance
for all kinds of evil in the paganism of the New Europe — but no tolerance
for Bible-believing Christians. Make no mistake, Christian believers who
hold traditional morality as the foundation of civilization will soon find
themselves marginalized and powerless in the European Union.”
To Greek Christians, the ID card issue focuses the great debate of the
Christian vs. secular polarization of the West like a laser beam. Believing
their globalist-minded government has served up a slice of secular pie, the
nationalist Christians are refusing to bite, no matter how sweet the
promises of European monetary unity may be.