This week, the US Secretary of State John Kerry released the latest religious freedom report, prepared by the US Department of State. Estonia is mostly mentioned in a positive note.
The report noted that Estonian constitution protects the freedom to practice one’s religion and prohibits the incitement of religious hatred, violence, or discrimination.
Citing 2011 census data, 29 percent of the Estonian population is religiously affiliated, 54 percent does not identify with any religion, and 17 percent declined to answer the question on the census. According to the census, 13.7 percent of the population belongs to one of the two Orthodox Churches: the Estonian Orthodox Church, subordinate to the Moscow Patriarchate (EOCMP), and the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church (EAOC), while 8.4 percent of the population is Lutheran.
“Other Christian groups, including Baptists, Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, members of Christian Free Congregations, and Pentecostals, constitute 1.2 percent of the population. There are also small Jewish and Muslim communities,” the report said.
While the law does not prohibit activities of religious associations, which are not registered, there are 500 religious associations registered with the government, according to report.
Anti-Semitism not a major issue in Estonia
In the report, special attention is also paid to how the Holocaust is remembered and how fierce is the anti-Semitism in Estonia. “The government held several memorial events for victims of the Holocaust and sponsored educational programs for teachers to introduce them to best classroom practices for Holocaust commemoration,” it said, adding that January 27 is observed as an annual memorial day for victims of the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity and schools participated in commemorative activities.
According to report, anti-Semitic extremism is not a major issue in Estonia. Citing Internal Security Service reports, it said that few dozen right wing extremists organized events that were directly associated with propagating National Socialist ideas: “These included celebrations of Adolf Hitler's birthday in Tallinn and Tartu, celebrations of other important dates related to the Third Reich, and the participation of individuals who favored or propagated National Socialism and xenophobia at various memorial events.” It added that these incidents evoked little response within Estonian society.
The report also disclosed that the US government sponsored an exhibition in Tallinn, Narva, Tartu, and Pärnu of photos and letters from the Jewish Division of the New York Public Library for the use of schools in teaching about the Holocaust, religious persecution, and the importance of religious tolerance.
Editor: S. Tambur