Common cause of historical religions against new religious movements

An unprecedented meeting between the heads of both Orthodox Christians and Muslims calls on for joint struggle against the destructive sects and for restitution of the church property

Tolerance Foundation/ HRWF Associated member (12.11.2001)/ HRWF International Secretariat (14.11.2001) - Website: Email: - On November 6, 2001 an unprecedented meeting took place between Patriarch Maxim, head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church and Chief Mufti Selim Mehmed, head of the Muslim community in Bulgaria. According to the press coverage of the event the Chief Mufti was the initiator of it. The talks were part of a wider campaign of the leaders of the Muslim community in Bulgaria to persuade the public that there are no haunts of radical Islam bases of Osama bin Laden in Bulgaria. At the end of October, a visit of the Muslim school in Sarnitza [1] had already been organized for Western diplomats to show them that religious education and training was developed in the spirit of traditional Islam and not radical [2] .

The two leaders agreed to say that the joint struggle against the invasion of the dangerous sects is a very important task. They also discussed about the problems concerning the restitution of religious buildings in Bulgaria [3].

The Chief Mufti focused on the problems regarding Muslim religious classes in public schools (in the areas, where Muslims are the majority of the population). The Patriarch underlined the importance of fighting against both atheism and sects. The two leaders said it was too early to talk about concrete cooperation between their respective religious communities in the sphere of charity, but it was a possibility to be envisaged in the future.

The meeting between the two religious leaders was the first in the whole history of Bulgaria. Undoubtedly it is a positive sign for the future relations between the two main religious communities in Bulgaria. Nevertheless Tolerance Foundation is worried about the joint statement of both spiritual leaders because it might encourage the government to strengthen the measures against so-called sects and thus to restrict religious freedom in Bulgaria.


[1] A small village located in the Southeast of the country; the population of the village consists of so-called Pomaks v i.e. Muslims speaking

[2] Some days before the visit, the British newspaper The Guardian wrote that the school in Sarnitza educates its students in the spirit of radical


[3] For more details on the topic see the Press Release of Tolerance Foundation dated August 02, 2001: BULGARIA: A Conference of Religious

Leaders Insists on Adopting a Special Bill for Restitution of the Confiscated Church Property, now available both of websites of the Bulgarian

Helsinki Committee and of the Greek Helsinki Monitor