Zhelev: "Non-Traditional" Religions Not a Threat Unless Threat to Public Order or Security

March 12, 2004

Source: The Sofia Echo


On March 12, 2004 The Sofia Echo published an interview with Ivan Zhelev, the Cabinet's director of religious affairs, "about the split in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and religious tolerance in Bulgaria." When asked, "Do you think that the sects and their followers have decreased recently? To what extent does this phenomenon represent a threat to Orthodox religion in Bulgaria, and the people and statehood?" Zhelev replied, "The term 'sect' offends the ear of many people in Bulgaria due to its negative connotations. Therefore, I prefer to talk about non-traditional religions or religious doctrines, for example. It is a fact that some of them were discouraged by the indifference of Bulgarians towards their doctrine. These religions or doctrines are not dangerous if they do not teach ideas that could threaten public order and security, the health or lives of people. Such a threat has been tracked by competent authorities in the activities of some Islamic groups that are not traditional for our country, and measures were taken to neutralise them. But one way or another the state of religion in Bulgaria is comparatively stable."