| Religious Freedom Ranking:
3 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement
Macedonia, formed after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1990, has a population of 2.1 million people. Although constitutional guarantees of religious freedom are fairly strong, strife between minority Albanian Muslims and majority Orthodox Macedonians poses a continuing challenge in the country, as do tensions between Serbian and Macedonian Orthodox communities and other issues. Only registered groups may legally bring in missionaries from abroad, and to obtain registration, a group must be headed by a Macedonian citizen in order to register. Several groups, especially Muslims, complain that properties seized by the former Communist government have not yet been returned to them.
Approximately 65 percent of the population is Macedonian Orthodox, and 32 percent is Muslim. Other religious groups present are Roman Catholics, various Protestant groups, and Jews. There is a connection between religious affiliation and ethnic identity in the country. The majority of Orthodox believers are Macedonian and the majority of Muslims are Albanian.
Section II of the Macedonian Constitution on Basic Freedoms and Rights of the Individual and Citizen declares that all citizens are equal under the law and guarantees freedom of religious confession. The right to express one’s faith openly and freely in public or private is guaranteed. Furthermore, the right of reply via the mass media and the right to correction in the mass media are also guaranteed. In 2010, the Macedonian parliament passed a new antidiscrimination law designed to protect against various forms of discrimination including discrimination against religious beliefs. The law was implemented in 2011.
While there is no official state church, a 2001 amendment to the Macedonian Constitution only mentions five religious groups: the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Community of Macedonia, the Roman Catholic Church, the Jewish community, and the Evangelical Methodist Church. Religious groups not mentioned in the Constitution claim that this has led to favorable treatment of the five major religions. There is tension between the Serbian and Macedonian Orthodox Church, because the Serbian Church does not recognize the Macedonian Church. In retaliation, the Macedonian government has refused entry to Serbian priests and restricted the ability of Serbian Orthodox believers to worship in Macedonia. The Macedonian Orthodox Church is still the only Orthodox church registered in the country.
Religious groups are required to register with the government to acquire legal status and recognition. Leaders of registered organizations must be Macedonian citizens. Registered religious groups must obtain work visas to bring in foreign missionaries. There is no procedure for unregistered groups to obtain permits to bring in foreigners.
After a 2009 religious education course was ruled unconstitutional, the Ministry of Education introduced a new course for fifth grade students in 2010 with three choices: Introduction to Religions, Ethics in Religion, or Classical Culture in European Civilization.
Properties taken by the former communist government of Yugoslavia have not yet been fully restored to the former owners. The Islamic community in particular has complained of delays in returning property.
Protestant groups complain of harassment and vandalism to which the police have been slow to respond. They also complain that they are unable to obtain regular employment status and have been prevented from holding meetings outside of their churches.
2010 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Macedonia
Macedonia - New World Encyclopedia
Macedonia Country Profile- BBC News