When Mimis Lignos began grammar school in a suburb of Athens, he quickly realized that his family was different. "Because Greeks identify Orthodoxy with national identity, I felt isolated as a child because I was evangelical, stigmatized by the neighborhood and school," says Mimis, now an elder at the Free Evangelical Church of Aigaleo.

Unfortunately, Mimis's experience was and is not unique. In the last few months, school officials have threatened to expel the fourth-grade son of a Free Evangelical family in Limnos because of his "heretical" religious beliefs.

These families have another thing in common: an entry on their identity cards that marks them as Protestant. But that practice may soon be history: Last year the ruling Socialist government decided to remove religious affiliation from the national identity card. The action drew loud protests from the state Orthodox church. Insisting that Greeks must retain the right to identify themselves as Orthodox, Archbishop Christodoulos Paraskevaides called the issue a "matter of national and confessional identity."

Legal Troubles


Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church, led a campaign against the government's measure, collecting 3.5 million signatures (in a nation of 10.6 million people) and calling for a national referendum. However, the Council of State's June decision that identifying one's religion on a public document is unconstitutional appears to have halted the campaign.

Combined with other recent developments, the ruling may signal the lifting of social sanctions against evangelicals.

In a land brimming with New Testament history, 20,000 Greek evangelicals make up only 0.19 percent of the country's population. The Orthodox Church claims 95 percent. Historically, ...

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