The US State Department has recently published its 2016 International Religious Freedom Report. The State Department in the last fifteen years, in its reports, points out the restrictions upon the religious freedoms in regards to the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric and other religious communities, as well, on the account of the authorities’ favoring of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MOC).

The report for 2016 highlights the imprisonment sentences for Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid, the court verdicts and processes against the members of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, that are still ongoing, as well as the denial for the registration of the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, in regards to which there is an ongoing process in the European Court for Human Rights.

Among the other issues, the report states that according to various university professors, nongovernmental organization (NGO) leaders, and legal and political analysts, religious differences continue to play a role in criminal and civil court cases, and as an example for that is the case of the state persecution against Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid and the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric.

The report also states that the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights called Archbishop Jovan of Ohrid a political prisoner, and that the denial to register a religious community represents a violation of the basic human rights and religious freedoms, having in mind that by doing so, the religious community is prevented to engage in certain activities such as establishing schools or receiving donations that are tax-deductible for the donor.

These are the problematic points: the imprisonment sentences and the court processes against the Orthodox Ohrid Archbishopric, solely because of its religious difference, as well as the denial to register it, and those points should at last be comprehended by the authorities who – by solving them – would contribute to the progress of our country towards the democracies in which it is shameful even to think that someone could be stigmatized and persecuted by the state solely because of one’s freedom to choose a religion.