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Argentina

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 44.7 million (July 2018 estimate).  Religious demographic and statistical data from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), research centers, and religious leaders vary.  According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, Catholics constitute 71 percent of the population, Protestants 15 percent, and atheists, agnostics, and those with no religious affiliation 11 percent.  Other sources state Seventh-day Adventists, Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Methodists, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ) together total 3 percent of the population.  According to the Pew study, the Jewish population is approximately 0.5 percent, and the Muslim population is estimated at 1 percent.  Evangelical Christian communities, particularly Pentecostals, are growing in size, but no reliable statistics are available.  There are also a small number of Baha’is, Buddhists, and adherents of indigenous religions in the country; however, no data are available on the size of these groups.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to media reports, a draft bill legalizing abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy generated civic dialogue on issues of separation of church and state.  On March 6, 71 legislators presented the draft bill; on August 9, the senate voted 38 to 31 against the abortion legalization bill, which had narrowly passed the chamber of deputies 129 to 125 on June 14.  Protesters supporting and opposing the draft bill, including from many religious groups, held massive and largely peaceful overnight demonstrations in front of congress before voting occurred on June 14 and August 9.  Protest against the bill came largely from religious groups.  On June 7, the CEA cohosted an interreligious prayer service against abortion with Muslim, Jewish, and evangelical Christian leaders.  On August 4, ACIERA, the country’s largest evangelical association, held a massive march against abortion legalization.  On August 8, Catholic Cardinal of Buenos Aires Mario Aurelio Poli held a public pro-life Mass.  Catholic media reported on August 18, following the rejection of the abortion draft bill, thousands of individuals renounced their Catholic faith in an organized and public fashion.  Catholic media reported these actions exemplified a growing confrontation between Catholic Church authorities and members calling for greater separation between church and state.

Catholic and evangelical Christian churches reported graffiti throughout the country by individuals protesting religious opposition to abortion.  On March 9, graffiti in favor of abortion legalization appeared on the Metropolitan Cathedral, police headquarters, and various Catholic schools in Salta Province.  On August 9, protesters painted graffiti in favor of abortion legalization on the front gates and walls of the Sacred Family Church in Neuquen Province.  On September 13, unidentified individuals painted the walls of the San Justo parochial high school in Buenos Aires Province with anti-Catholic slogans.  On August 11, ACIERA denounced defacement of various member churches throughout the country due to the abortion legalization debate.

Media reported a Catholic high school teacher in Buenos Aires was recorded on camera justifying anti-Semitism, stating that Hitler did “good things.”  School authorities removed the teacher, Denise Yanet Evequoz, from her teaching duties in May after a video recording of her class in 2015 went viral on social media.  Evequoz defended her statements and did not apologize.

In May journalist Santiago Cuneo stated during a television show that President Macri was a political partner of international Zionism and that his government had staffed the country’s intelligence agency with Israeli intelligence agents.  Cuneo also personally insulted a Jewish member of the president’s cabinet and a Jewish businessman while the show was on the air.  DAIA publicly condemned the journalist’s statements and said it would bring discrimination charges against him.  Cuneo resigned after the incident but did not retract his statements.

On August 28, media reported unidentified individuals with unknown motives set fire to the San Roque Cathedral in Cordoba, causing property damage.  The church dates back to 1760 and is a dedicated national monument.  At year’s end, there were no reports of detentions of any individuals.

On September 6, two members of congress hosted a public congressional hearing on the separation of church and state.  Civil society leaders, legal experts, and politicians provided remarks on religious influence in national institutions and what they stated was the need for equality among religious communities.  They cited the nine draft bills in congress seeking to equalize government treatment of religious communities and remove privileges granted to the Catholic Church.  On September 15, approximately three dozen individuals protested what they deemed the lack of separation of church and state by publicly renouncing their Catholic faith on the steps of the Metropolitan Cathedral and submitting 5,000 names of other individuals who renounced their Catholic faith to the CEA.

DAIA documented 404 reported complaints of anti-Semitism in 2017, compared with 351 reported complaints in 2016.  Eighty-eight percent of reported incidents occurred on social media.  DAIA continued to track complaints of verbal, physical, and online harassment or anti-Semitic remarks, as well as anti-Semitic language in public spaces, including social and traditional media and during demonstrations and protests.  DAIA did not provide an analysis of the increase in cases.

From March to May in advance of the World Cup, the River Plate Museum, which is located in one of the largest stadiums in Buenos Aires, hosted a Holocaust exhibit entitled “It Wasn’t a Game.”  The museum received approximately 25,000 visitors each month.  The exhibit featured stories about soccer during the Holocaust era and highlighted Emerico Hirschl, a Hungarian-Jewish soccer coach who led the River Plate soccer team to national and international championships in the 1930s and convinced port guards to allow Jews to enter through Buenos Aires’ ports.

On November 21, the MENORA World Youth Organization and local NGO La Alameda held its first “Soccer Game for Peace” in Buenos Aires.  The game brought together Senegalese Muslim immigrants with young Jewish players, creating two mixed interreligious teams to promote fraternity and understanding among the two faith communities.

According to Adalberto Assad, president of the Argentine Confederation of Arab Entities, anti-Muslim sentiment was present in the country, which is home to one of the most active Islamic organizations in Latin America (Islamic Organization of Latin America) as well as the largest mosque in Latin America (King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center).  In a November article on the website of recently inaugurated Shia television channel Annur TV, Assad stated that “there is a persecution against the Muslim community in [the country]…What is happening now has never been seen before.”  The article went on to discuss an arrest and home search just prior to the G20 Leaders Summit of two Muslim brothers accused of having connections to Hezbollah and an alleged weapons cache.

In Mendoza Province, a Muslim woman was denied entry to the pool of a private swimming club – Cachueta Hot Springs – because she was wearing a burkini.  The club permits bathers to enter the water only with bikinis or one-piece swimsuits; an employee monitoring pool entrances refused her entry because the burkini did not fit into either of those categories.  The employee stated the woman could use the other facilities of the complex but not enter the water.  The woman then went to the employee who had sold her the entrance ticket and received a refund.  She later made a formal complaint to INADI detailing what had happened; INADI stated that the woman was correct in her complaint and that the complex had broken the law by denying her entrance into the pool.

Interreligious groups such as Religions for Peace, whose members included Catholic, Protestant, evangelical Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, and indigenous religious groups, and the Argentine Council for Religious Freedom, continued to work on increasing opportunities for interreligious action on common societal challenges.  On December 6, leaders from the Islamic Center of the Argentine Republic (CIRA), the AMIA, and the CEA signed a document to further interreligious dialogue and peace.  The declaration, an updated version of a similar document signed in 2005 by then Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio and his peers in the interreligious community, affirmed the commitment of all involved not to permit religious conflicts from other parts of the world to affect the fraternity among religious communities in the country.

Cuba

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 11.1 million (July 2018 estimate).  There is no independent, authoritative source on the overall size or composition of religious groups.  The Catholic Church estimates 60 to 70 percent of the population identifies as Catholic.  Membership in Protestant churches is estimated at 5 percent of the population.  According to some observers, Pentecostals and Baptists are likely the largest Protestant denominations.  The Assemblies of God (AG) reports approximately 150,000 members; the four Baptist Conventions estimate their combined membership at more than 100,000.

Jehovah’s Witnesses estimate their members at 96,000; Methodists 50,000; Seventh-day Adventists more than 35,000; Anglicans 22,500; Presbyterians 25,000; Episcopalians 6,000; Quakers 1,000; Moravians 750; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 150 members.  During the year, the Episcopal Church of Cuba was readmitted as a diocese of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church after being separated in 1966, a possible explanation for the increase from 300 members in 2017.  There are approximately 4,000 followers of 50 Apostolic churches (an unregistered loosely affiliated network of Protestant churches, also known as the Apostolic Movement) and a separate New Apostolic Church associated with the New Apostolic Church International.  According to some Christian leaders, there is a marked growth of evangelical Protestant groups in the country.  The Jewish community estimates it has 1,200 members, of whom 1,000 reside in Havana.  According to the local Islamic League, there are 2,000 to 3,000 Muslims, of whom an estimated 1,500 are native born.  Other religious groups with small numbers of adherents include Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Buddhists, and Baha’is.

Many individuals, particularly those of African descent, practice religions with roots in West Africa and the Congo River Basin, known collectively as Santeria.  These religious practices are commonly intermingled with Catholicism, and some require Catholic baptism for full initiation, making it difficult to estimate accurately their total membership.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

The Community of Sant’Egidio, recognized by the Catholic Church as a “Church public lay association,” again held an interfaith meeting – “Bridges of Peace” – in Havana on October 12-14 to promote interreligious engagement, tolerance, and joint efforts towards peace.  Leaders of different religious groups in the country and participants from 25 countries attended the meeting, which focused on the importance of peaceful interfaith coexistence.

France

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 67.4 million (July 2018 estimate).  According to the most recent study by the National Institute for Demographic and Economic Studies, conducted in 2008 and published in 2010, 45 percent of respondents aged 18-50 reported no religious affiliation, while 43 percent identified as Roman Catholic, 8 percent as Muslim, 2 percent as Protestant, and the remaining 2 percent as Orthodox Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, or other.

A poll conducted in March by the private firm Opinionway found 41 percent of respondents older than 18 years identify as Catholic, 8 percent Muslim, 3 percent Protestant, 1 percent Buddhist, and 1 percent Jewish; 43 percent said they have no religious affiliation.

According to a survey conducted in March by the Catholic Institute of Paris and St. Mary’s Catholic University in the United Kingdom, 64 percent of young people aged 16-29 in France declared themselves without a religion compared with 23 percent who said they were Catholic and 10 percent who said they were Muslim.

The MOI estimates 8-10 percent of the population is Muslim.  The Muslim population consists primarily of immigrants from former French colonies in North and sub-Saharan Africa and their descendants.  According to a Pew Research Center study published in November 2017, Muslims number 5.72 million, 8.8 percent of the total population.

According to a 2017 Ipsos study published in Reforme, a Protestant online news daily, there are an estimated 600,000 Lutheran, 600,000 evangelical, and 800,000 nondenominational members in the Protestant community.  Many evangelical churches primarily serve African and Caribbean immigrants.

A 2016 report by Berman Jewish Data Bank estimated there are 460,000-700,000 Jews, depending on the criteria chosen.  According to the study, there are more Sephardic than Ashkenazi Jews.

The Buddhist Union of France estimates there are one million Buddhists, mainly Chinese and Vietnamese immigrants and their descendants.  Other religious groups estimate their numbers as follows:  Jehovah’s Witnesses, 120,000; Orthodox Christians, most of whom are associated with the Greek or Russian Orthodox Churches, 80,000-100,000; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 66,000; Church of Scientology, 45,000; and Sikhs, 30,000.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to the latest government estimates available, the MOI reported registered crimes targeting Muslims (threats or violence) totaled 100, down from 121 in 2017; there were an additional 45 acts of vandalism against Muslim places of worship and six acts of desecration against Muslim cemeteries.  The reported anti-Semitic crimes (threats or violence) increased to 541, compared with 311 in the previous year.  Despite an overall increase resulting from a significant rise in threats, violent acts against Jews fell from 97 to 81.  Anti-Semitic threats rose from 214 in 2017 to 358, and acts of vandalism totaled 102.  The government also reported 1,063 anti-Christian incidents, most of which involved vandalism or other acts against property, compared with 1,038 in 2017.  The government did not provide a detailed breakdown of anti-Muslim or anti-Christian acts registered during the year.

On March 23, Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll, aged 85, was found dead in her Paris apartment.  An autopsy revealed she had been stabbed at least 11 times before being burned in a fire, which was ruled to be arson.  Authorities arrested two individuals in connection with the killing and placed them in pretrial detention.  The Paris prosecutor’s office was investigating the killing as a hate crime.  After the incident, thousands of people participated in a “white march,” a silent gathering to commemorate the victim, in Paris.  On May 27, President Macron stated Knoll was “murdered because she was Jewish.”

In February unknown individuals placed acid in the stroller of a rabbi’s baby daughter in Bron.  The child suffered burns on her back and legs.  According to an ongoing police investigation, anti-Semitic motives were involved.

In March police arrested four teens suspected of beating a Jewish boy with a stick and taking his kippah outside a synagogue north of Paris.  The suspects reportedly called the boy and his siblings “dirty Jews.”

On August 24, a man attacked two male worshippers with a bicycle chain as they were leaving a mosque in the town of Lens, near Calais.  The Mayor of Lens, Sylvain Robert, condemned the attack in a statement.  According to the mayor, during his court hearing, the accused cited “ideological and racist” justifications for his act.  On September 26, the Lens Court sentenced the accused to an 11-month prison sentence for aggravated assault, referencing the racist nature of the attack.

In July a psychiatric evaluation of Kobili Traore, charged with killing his 65-year-old Jewish neighbor, Sarah Halimi, in 2017, determined Traore was not responsible for his actions and therefore unable to stand trial.  Authorities were planning to conduct a third psychiatric evaluation of Traore, who remained incarcerated at year’s end.  On February 27, reversing a previous decision, the judge presiding over the case added the charge of anti-Semitism as a motive for the crime.  The magistrate made this decision after hearing testimony from Traore.  In a statement, CRIF hailed the judge’s decision and expressed “satisfaction” and “relief.”

Authorities scheduled a new trial for March 2019 in Paris Criminal Court for Abdelkader Merah on the charge of complicity in the killing by his brother, Mohammed Merah, of seven persons outside a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012.  In November 2017, prosecutors appealed the 2017 acquittal of Abdelkader Merah on the complicity charge; the court had convicted him on the lesser charge of criminal terrorist conspiracy.

By year’s end authorities had not set a date for the trial of five individuals arrested in November 2017 and charged with carrying out an attack on a Jewish family in Livry Gargan earlier that year.

On July 6, a court in Val-de-Marne sentenced three young men who carried out a rape and robbery of a Jewish couple in the Paris suburb of Creteil in 2014.  Abdou Salam Koita and Ladje Haidara, who committed the rape, were present in court.  Houssame Hatri, who made anti-Semitic slurs during the attack, remained at large and was convicted in absentia.  The three, who were sentenced to eight, 13, and 16 years in prison, respectively, bound and gagged their victims before carrying out the rape and stealing jewelry and bank cards.  “Jews do not put money in the bank,” one of them reportedly said.  During the attack Hatri also reportedly said that the attack was “for my brothers in Palestine” before suggesting the perpetrators should “gas” their victims.  Two accomplices received sentences of five and six years in jail.

On June 29, the Paris prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into anti-Semitic letters received by at least six Jewish associations, including CRIF.  The letters, signed by “The Black Hand,” were posted June 18 and referred to the killing of Mireille Knoll, according to press reports.  The letters read in part, “Dear Jews, you bitterly mourn the death of an old Jew murdered for her money.  We think you pay little for the number of crimes you commit every day.  Enjoy it, because the day of punishment will come.”

In December the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (EU-FRA) released its second survey of Jewish experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism.  EU-FRA targeted Jewish populations through community organizations, Jewish media, and social networks; 3,869 individuals who identified themselves as Jewish residents of France responded to the online survey.  Twenty-two percent said they had witnessed other Jews being physically attacked, insulted, or harassed in the previous 12 months, and 27 percent reported being harassed over the same period.  One-fifth of respondents said they had felt discriminated against because of their religion or belief; 93 percent thought anti-Semitism had increased over the previous five years.

The annual report of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights, an advisory body to the prime minister, released in March, included the results of a poll conducted in November 2017 by the Ipsos Institute, a research and consulting company, involving face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 1,003 residents over the age of 18.  According to the poll, 38.2 percent of the respondents (2 percent fewer than in 2016) believed Jews “have a particular relationship with money,” and 19.7 percent thought Jews had too much power in the country.  The same poll found 29.5 percent of respondents had a negative image of Islam and 43.9 percent (2.1 percent fewer than in the previous year) of them considered it a threat to national identity.  The report also cited what it said was persistent societal rejection of Islamic religious practices, such as of prayer and women wearing a veil.  According to the report, there was a decrease in anti-Semitic and racist acts compared with 2016, “despite a general context favorable to the rejection of the other, notably marked by terrorism, the arrival of migrants, unemployment, the importance of security issues reported in the media, and the rise in populism in Europe.”

In May Maryam Pougetoux, aged 19, the leader of the Sorbonne chapter of the French National Students’ Union, set off a debate by wearing a hijab on national television.  Laurent Bouvet, a secularist and member of Le Printemps Republicain (Repulican Spring), a group created to defend secularism, stated in a Twitter post, “We aren’t hunting anyone but merely pointing to the inconsistency” of Pougetoux wearing a hijab, arguing it contradicted her support for abortion rights and other “feminist principles.”  Then-Interior Minister Collomb called her appearance “shocking,” while Marlene Schiappa, the junior minister for gender equality, said she saw in Pougetoux’s act a “form of promotion of political Islam.”  Hijabs are permitted on college campuses.

According to media reports, on June 28, a judge fined a tobacco shop owner in the town of Albi 1,000 euros ($1,100) for refusing goods and services to a Muslim woman who was wearing a jilbab.  The woman had come to the merchant’s store to pick up a parcel she had delivered there.  The woman’s face was visible when she presented her identity card to the shop owner, and she offered to remove her veil in a setting where no men were present, according to reports.  The judge also ordered the shop owner to pay to each of the four women who accompanied the plaintiff to the store 800 euros ($920) for moral damages and 500 euros ($570) for legal fees, as well as 800 euros ($920) in damages each to the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism and the Movement Against Racism and Friendship Between Peoples, and one euro ($1) to the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF).

On Easter Monday (April 2), unidentified individuals vandalized the church of Fenay, near Dijon.  According to the parish priest, the attackers broke the door of the sacristy with an ax, then threw down and trampled the consecrated hosts.  “This is a deliberate act of desecration,” said the priest, who filed a complaint, according to press reports.  The investigation continued at year’s end.

On January 26, unknown individuals painted a large swastika at the entrance to the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

On June 17, Strasbourg celebrated the 11th anniversary of its interfaith dialogue initiative, which continued to bring together religious leaders from Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist faiths.

In July, for the second consecutive year, young Christians and Muslims from across the country, Europe, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East participated in a three-day “weekend of friendship” event at the Taize Ecumenical Community in the Department of Saone-et-Loire.  The approximately 200 participants addressed a series of questions from the organizers on prayer, religious freedom, and fasting.

In December 80 civil society representatives from 25 countries attended the ninth annual Muslim-Jewish Conference in Paris, exchanging best practices and discussing ways to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic sentiment.  The organizers said interfaith dialogue was more important than ever and committed to supporting Jewish and Muslim communities in the country and around the world.

The Council of Christian Churches, composed of 10 representatives from the Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic Churches, continued to serve as a forum for dialogue.  One observer represented the Anglican Communion on the council.  The council met twice in plenary session and twice at the working level.

Greece

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 10.8 million (July 2018 estimate), of whom approximately 81 to 90 percent is Greek Orthodox, 4 to 15 percent atheist, and 2 percent Muslim.

According to a Pew Research Center study released in November 2017, Muslims were approximately 5.7 percent of the population in 2016, including approximately 100,000 individuals in Thrace descending from the Muslim minority officially recognized in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.  According to the same source, an additional 520,000 Muslims, mostly immigrants and asylum seekers from Southeastern Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, reside throughout the country, clustered together based on their countries of origin, or in reception facilities.

According to data provided by other religious communities, their members combined constitute 3-5 percent of the population.  These include Old Calendarist Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, members of polytheistic Hellenic religions, Scientologists, Baha’is, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sikhs, Seventh-day Adventists, Buddhists, and members of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

On December 19, the General Secretariat for Religious Affairs released a report showing a 159 percent increase in attacks on religious sites in 2017, compared with the previous year.  In 2017 there were 556 reported cases of violence or vandalism against religious sites; 535 of the sites were Orthodox Christian, 11 Jewish, eight Muslim, and two Catholic.  Statistics by the Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN) for 2017, the most recent year available, showed 34 cases in which immigrants or refugees were targeted for their religion, among other grounds, compared with 31 cases the previous year.  The RVRN also recorded two separate incidents in which a citizen was targeted because of his or her religious beliefs.  During the same period, police received 28 reports of racist violence based on religion, compared with 24 reports the previous year.

Incidents of vandalism and desecration targeting Holocaust monuments and memorials continued throughout the year.  On May 4, unidentified individuals destroyed nine marble stones in the Jewish section of a historic Athens cemetery.  President of the Athens Jewish Community Minos Moissis called the destruction “the most severe [anti-Semitic] incident in Athens in the past 15 years.”  The secretaries general for religious affairs and for human rights and transparency, the Mayor of Athens, and other elected officials condemned the vandalism and participated in a ceremony of solidarity with the Jewish community in the cemetery.  According to Moissis, police responded immediately to gather evidence and file charges, but by year’s end, no arrests were made.

On July 11, unknown individuals threw blue paint on a monument marking the site of the former Jewish cemetery at the Aristotle University campus in Thessaloniki.  University and government officials, including opposition party members, denounced the act.  On June 27, unidentified individuals threw red paint on the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki, and on June 29, a public prosecutor ordered a preliminary investigation of the case to determine offenses under the anti-racist law.  Individuals spray-painted “Golden Dawn” on the same monument in January during a protest rally, and on December 15, unknown individuals drew a swastika on it with black paint.  On January 5, unidentified individuals threw red paint on a Holocaust memorial in Komotini, Thrace.  On January 23, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) reported unknown perpetrators vandalized the outside wall of the synagogue in Volos, in the central part of the country, with graffiti.  KIS urged authorities to arrest the perpetrators and prevent acts of vandalism.  On October 12, unidentified individuals destroyed eight tombstones in the Trikala Jewish cemetery in the northern part of the country.  On December 26, unknown individuals vandalized the Holocaust memorial in the city of Kastoria.  No arrests in any of the cases were reported by year’s end.

Throughout the year, media and police recorded incidents of vandalism targeting Greek Orthodox premises and chapels.  On March 6, a group of self-defined anarchists placed an explosive device outside the headquarters of the Diocese of Neapoli and Stavroupolis, near Thessaloniki.  The explosion damaged the building entrance.  On December 27, the self-identified anarchist group Iconoclastic Sect placed an explosive device outside Agios Dionysios Church in central Athens.  The churchwarden and a police officer sustained minor injuries.  Government and religious leaders, including the minister for education and the secretary general for religious affairs, the ecumenical patriarch, and KIS, denounced the act, some calling it “an attack against religious freedom.”  On February 26, media reported unknown individuals had vandalized a small church on the island of Paros.  On January 22, media reported anarchists had painted slogans on the outside of a church in Patras.  The slogans criticized priests for participating in rallies against the Prespes Agreement, an agreement between Greece and North Macedonia resolving a long-standing dispute over the latter’s name.  No arrests were reported for any of these incidents.

On January 19, unidentified individuals toppled a bronze statue in the municipality of Palaio Faliro, Athens.  The statue’s name was “Phylax” and depicted a bright-red fallen angel.  According to the Mayor of Palaio Faliro, Dionysis Hatzidakis, since its erection in December 2017, the statue had caused controversy among local residents, some of whom called it “satanic.”

The direct and indirect linking of Jews with conspiracy theories targeting the country’s sovereignty continued; individuals mostly expressed these views on social media.  On January 21, the Mayor of Thessaloniki, Boutaris did not participate in a large rally protesting the country’s negotiations with Macedonia regarding the latter’s official name.  After the rally, posters appeared around the city claiming Boutaris was “a closet Jew” for supporting the negotiations.

On April 27, a Thessaloniki misdemeanor court in Xanthi sentenced Mufti Ahmet Mete, an unofficial mufti not recognized by the government, and not one of the three official muftis, to eight months in prison – payable as a fine instead of jail time – for making anti-Semitic comments in 2014 and stating, “Hitler was right to turn the Jews into soap.”  On May 6, according to a statement released by KIS, Mete gave a speech at the Kentavros Mosque in Komotini, stating, “I accused the Jews of being murderers of infants because they slaughtered infants….  Religion upholds that, as a Muslim, if someone among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; if he cannot, then with his tongue; and if he cannot, then hate him with his heart.”

KIS continued to express concerns about anti-Semitic comments and cartoons in mainstream media mocking political controversies through the use of Jewish sacred symbols and comparisons to the Holocaust or through drawing parallels among “Jews,” “Zionists,” and “Nazis,” equating the first with the latter.  On May 4, KIS denounced cartoonist Michalis Kountouris for his April 10-11 and May 5 cartoons in the Newspaper of the Editors for equating Nazi practices with Israeli policy.  The first sketch showed an inmate at a concentration camp wearing a symbol representing the Gaza Strip reminiscent of the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.  The second showed an Israeli soldier leaving the prints of his bloodied hands on the Western Wall, next to many other bloody handprints of other individuals who had prayed before him.  The third cartoon depicted an Israeli soldier with a gun giving a Nazi-style salute.  On July 4, another cartoonist in the same newspaper doctored a picture of the gate at Auschwitz with the words “12 hours of work is liberating,” comparing contemporary employment conditions in Europe to the Holocaust.  KIS issued a statement criticizing the cartoonist of Holocaust trivialization.

On January 22, GHM filed a judicial complaint against local governments, Orthodox priests, and some media for propagating the custom of the “burning of Judas” during Orthodox Easter celebrations.  GHM listed 69 different cities, parishes, and media outlets that organized and advertised this custom, which KIS continued to criticize and the Greek Orthodox Church officially denounced.  There was no public decision regarding this case by year’s end.

On March 4, media reported Greek Orthodox priests in Athens led 2,000 individuals in a march, protesting the release of new textbooks for religious studies.  Some protesters carried banners stating “No to ecumenical religion” and denouncing the book authors as traitors.  Protesters delivered their petition to parliament before peacefully disbanding.

According to a Pew Research study conducted from 2015 to 2017 and published in October, 76 percent of respondents agreed that to be “truly Greek” one must be Christian.  Approximately 37 percent of respondents in a study published by a local think tank, Dianeosis, said the word “Jewish” meant something negative to them and approximately 45 percent of respondents stated they would be “bothered” by the construction of mosques in the country.

On October 8, media reported unidentified individuals produced flyers criticizing a municipal official who supported the construction of a crematory facility in the city and encouraging citizens to spit on and denounce the official at her home.

Spain

Section I. Religious Demography

The U.S. government estimates the total population at 49.3 million (July 2018 estimate).  According to a survey conducted in April by the governmental Center for Sociological Research, 67.4 percent of respondents identified themselves as Catholic and 2.6 percent as followers of other religious groups.  In addition, 15.6 percent described themselves as “nonbelievers” and 12.2 percent as atheists; the remaining 2.3 percent did not answer the question.

The (Catholic) Episcopal Conference of Spain estimates there are 32.6 million Catholics.  The Federation of Evangelical Religious Entities (FEREDE) estimates there are 1.7 million Protestants, 900,000 of whom are immigrants.  The Union of Islamic Communities of Spain (UCIDE), the largest member organization of the Islamic Commission of Spain (CIE), estimates there are 1.9 million Muslims, while other Muslim groups estimate a population of up to two million.  According to the MOJ’s 2017 report on religious freedom, citing estimates by religious groups, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain (FCJE) estimates there are 45,000 Jews; the Episcopal Orthodox Assembly stated in 2014 there were 1.5 million Orthodox Christians; the Jehovah’s Witnesses report 188,000 members; the Federation of Buddhist Communities estimates there are 85,000 Buddhists; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church of Jesus Christ) cites 57,000 members.  Other religious groups include Christian Scientists, other Christian groups, Baha’is (12,000 members), Scientologists (11,000 members), and Hindus.  The autonomous communities of Catalonia, Andalusia, and Madrid and the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa contain the highest percentage of non-Christians, nearly 50 percent in the latter two cities.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

According to the Observatory for Religious Freedom and Conscience (OLRC), there were 142 incidents that it described as violating religious freedom in the first nine months of the year, 20 more than in the same period in 2017.  Of the incidents, 92 targeted Christians (including 79 against Catholics), 10 were against Muslims, five against Jews, and 35 classified as against all faiths.  There were two incidents of violence, 33 attacks on places of worship, 42 cases of harassment, and 65 cases of public marginalization of religion.  As described in the report, many incidents had political as well as religious motivations.  Some involved protests of government actions perceived as favoring or disfavoring religious groups or were declarations or resolutions by civil society groups or political parties calling for the cessation of religion classes in schools, a strict separation of religion and state, or a renegotiation of the government’s agreement with the Holy See.

The MOI reported 103 hate crimes based on religious beliefs or practices and, separately, six motivated by anti-Semitism in 2017, the most recent year for which data were available, compared with 47 and seven such crimes, respectively, in 2016.  Half of the anti-Semitic crimes and 43 percent of the other religiously motivated crimes reported in 2017 occurred in Catalonia.  The MOI’s report did not cite specific examples or provide a breakdown of religiously motivated incidents by type of crime.

The Citizens’ Platform against Islamophobia reported 546 anti-Muslim incidents in 2017.  The NGO said that, because its methodology had changed, this figure should not be compared to the 573 incidents in 2016.  Of the total reported cases, which it said represented “only the tip of the iceberg,” 386 incidents were media or internet based, while 48 percent comprised verbal insults or derogatory statements against Islam and Muslims.  Incidents occurred most often in Catalonia (51), Andalucia (22), Valencia (20) and Madrid (17).  The NGO said it believed the large number of incidents in Catalonia was related to August 2017 terrorist attacks.  The government characterized these attacks as “jihad terrorism.”  According to the NGO, the targets were Muslims and Islam in general, women (21 percent), children (7 percent), and mosques (7 percent).  The most frequent type of incidents after online hate speech, it reported, was discrimination against women wearing hijabs, at 21 percent.

According to the OLRC report, in one violent incident in March, a Moroccan man attacked and insulted a Moroccan woman in Lorca because of what he said was her attire and demeanor in public.  The woman reportedly suffered minor injuries.  Police arrested the suspected perpetrator, who had allegedly threatened the woman on other occasions.  In the other violent incident OLRC cited, in August police arrested two men described as leftist extremists after they allegedly attacked a group of youths wearing t-shirts of a Catholic university in Murcia.  One of the attackers hit a youth on the head with a bottle, causing an ocular hemorrhage.

In August in Mataro, Barcelona Province, the Civil Guard detained two Moroccan men allegedly involved with recruiting individuals to join ISIS.  According to press reports, the detainees had posted on the internet that their objective was “to kill all Jews.”

The attacks against places of worship the OLRC report cited included not only vandalism, but also threats and incitement to violence.  In one, ISIS disseminated a message to followers and sympathizers containing a picture of the Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona with the words, “If you don’t have a weapon, you have a truck or a knife.”

The MOJ’s report on religious freedom cited 43 hospitals throughout the country that refused to treat Jehovah’s Witnesses who declined to consent to blood transfusions.  The report stated that many hospitals denied treatment even for minor procedures and made no effort to identify a physician within the hospital or another medical facility willing to treat the patient.  If a physician was willing to operate on or treat a Jehovah’s Witness, hospital administrators sometimes hindered the ability of these physicians to provide medical services to that patient.  If another medical facility willing to treat a Jehovah’s Witness were found, hospitals sometimes refused to transport the patient to the other facility.  The problem, according to the report, was most serious in smaller cities, where alternative medical options were limited.

In March according to press reports, neighborhood associations and others in the Barcelona district of Nou Barris called on authorities to stop the daily harassment of dozens of persons using a mosque located there.  According to a district representative, neighbors opposed to the mosque banged pots and pans in protest every night, and on Fridays and weekends, members of far-right groups from outside the district came to harass and insult persons leaving the mosque.  A member of the local Muslim community called on authorities to provide security, as did the priest of a Catholic Church in the neighborhood, who said, “They [Muslims] should have the same right that we have.”

In May a Barcelona court issued preliminary measures restricting seven members of the far-right National Democracy Party from communicating with or coming within 300 meters (1000 feet) of the Nou Barris mosque.  Additionally, the court shut down their social media accounts from which it said they spread their hate speech.  Authorities accused the perpetrators of vandalism, coercion, and incitement of hate against the Muslim community after having systematically perpetrated hostile actions against this community since March 2017.

In September a group of women protesters, some of them topless and wearing masks, surrounded Catholic Bishop of San Sebastian Jose Ignacio Munilla as he was entering a church to celebrate Mass.  In March another group of women protesters stripped in front of the Good Pastor Cathedral in San Sebastian, protesting remarks the bishop had made about feminism.

According to the ECRI report on the country, the Jewish community stated anti-Semitism was increasing in the media, and ignorance about Jews created opportunities for anti-Semitic sentiment.  ECRI said frequent use of expressions such as “Islamic terrorism” and “Jihadist terrorism” in the press contributed to a rise in anti-Islamic sentiment and negatively influenced public perception of Muslims.

According to the MOJ report on religious freedom, FEREDE stated offenses and acts of incitement of hatred against Christianity were growing, although many incidents were not reported, and when they were, authorities did not always impute a religious motive to them.  The FCJE cited continued anti-Semitism in mass media, and particularly in social media, by anonymous accounts.  The Catholic Church reported increased instances of offensive speech against Catholicism, its priests, and the religious beliefs of its members, which, according to the Church, exceeded the normal scope of freedom of expression or opinion.  The CIE cited particular concerns over societal discrimination against Muslim women, especially those wearing the hijab, in the workplace and schools and at swimming pools and beaches.  CIE also reported growing hate speech against Islam, Muslims, and refugees, many of whom were Muslim, on social media, as well as increased incidents of vandalism against mosques.  Each group called on the government to improve its response and provide better protection to places of worship.

In June authorities in the Canary Islands arrested a Moroccan national for disseminating hate speech in social media against the Jewish community.

In December the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (EU-FRA) released its second survey of Jewish experiences and perceptions of anti-Semitism.  EU-FRA targeted Jewish populations through community organizations, Jewish media, and social networks; 570 individuals who identified themselves as Jewish residents of Spain responded to the online survey.  Seventeen percent said they had witnessed other Jews being physically attacked, insulted, or harassed in the previous 12 months, and 32 percent reported being harassed over the same period.  Twenty-six percent of respondents said they had felt discriminated against because of their religion or belief; 73 percent thought anti-Semitism had increased over the previous five years.

In March police found an incendiary device, described as akin to a Molotov cocktail, on the window of a Catholic church in Cordoba.  Reportedly, the fuse had been lit, but the device did not explode.  A similar incident occurred in June when a group broke windows at the Autonomous University of Madrid and threw incendiary devices at the chapel.  Also in June unknown individuals started a fire in the Catholic Basilica of Santa Maria in the city of Elche.  Persons inside the church put out the fire before it spread.

In July vandals ransacked a Catholic church in the town of Adrados in Leon Province, causing damages that residents estimated might exceed 30,000 euros ($34,400).  Authorities detained two suspects.

In July vandals painted swastikas on the walls of the Great Mosque of Valencia, hung up the mask of a pig, and wrote graffiti and signs reading “No Moors” and “Stop Islam, Stop Jews.”

In March unidentified individuals painted “Moors Get Out” and a target at the entrance to a mosque in Hernani, Guipozkoa Province.  The head of the Islamic Federation of the Basque Country, Aziz Messaoudi, spoke out against the vandalism, stating, “One cannot toy with the social peace of our society of Euskadi, because that is the red line we cannot cross.”

In February unknown individuals scrawled on the front of the Greater Synagogue of Barcelona, “Get Out of Our Land.”  The synagogue is one of the oldest in Europe.

In March unidentified persons painted graffiti linking Jews to the Illuminati on the Holocaust Monument in Oviedo.

Press reported that in March on International Women’s Day, far-left feminists scrawled graffiti on Catholic churches in several cities throughout the country, including Madrid, Seville, Granada, Cordoba, and La Coruna.  The graffiti criticized the Catholic Church, religion, or “the patriarchy” or was pro-abortion.  One read, “The church that best illuminates is the one that burns.”

In January a graffito reading “Muslims Not Welcome” was scrawled on a wall near the M30 Mosque in Madrid.  The graffito was signed with the initials “DNJ,” which, according to press reports, corresponded to the youth wing of National Democracy, a far-right political party without representation in the national or regional parliaments.

In May a Madrid court prosecuted Melisa Dominguez, the leader of the neo-Nazi group Hogar Social Madrid, for a hate crime in connection with an incident involving the M30 Madrid Mosque in March 2016.  Dominguez was accused of throwing flares at or near the mosque and posting signs near it that contained hate speech.  Dominguez’ trial was ongoing at year’s end.

In September the UNESCO Association for Interreligious Dialogue (AUDIR), a Catalan NGO comprised of members of multiple religious groups, organized the third of its “Night of Religions” in Barcelona, in which more than 30 religious centers representing 15 different faiths shared their religious traditions with the public.  AUDIR continued to implement the project “Building Bridges,” in which 40 youths from different faiths attended courses on interfaith dialogue, among other subjects.  As part of the program, the participants visited places of worship in their neighborhoods.

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