More clashes over religion at school

More clashes over religion at school

Schoolteachers have expressed concern over “divisive” remarks made by Education Minister Nikos Filis that morning prayers and religious activities should be held at the discretion of their teachers.

Educators say this could lead to divisions among them over socially and politically sensitive issues and could even spark disagreements between members of parent-teacher associations.

Filis made his remarks at a recent SYRIZA party event in Kallithea, where he stated his opposition to “issuing directives” from above and preferring to empower teachers on the matter.

“We are sure that teachers will find a balance when it comes to society and parents,” he said, insisting that “we will put our trust in teachers’ associations.”

The issue is due to be discussed Friday during a meeting between the minister and the Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME).

But Filis also drew the ire of the Church of Greece after he likened – at the same event –religious courses taught at school to “playtime,” feeding an ongoing feud between the two sides.

In a statement, the Church’s governing body, the Holy Synod, expressed its “surprise” at his “offensive and derogatory comments.”

“He continues to describe religious courses as indoctrination or confessional,” it said, noting that these terms had already been rejected by special committees and academics, as well as by the Holy Synod.

“The current program of religious courses is cultural and religious in nature and does not indoctrinate nor is it confessional in character.”

Filis and the Church of Greece have had a bumpy relationship since he was appointed education minister by the leftist-led coalition.

In March, the Church called for the intervention of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras after Filis issued a circular that prohibited bishops from visiting schools without receiving permission from the government, so that “they don’t become arenas of debate and sermons by figures from outside the school.”

Filis’s instructions have largely been ignored but the row highlighted deeply entrenched differences of perspective between the government and the country’s powerful Church.

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