Republic of Cyprus

RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN REPUBLIC OF CYPRUS


The Constitution of Cyprus does not legally distinguish between majority and minority religions, in the sense that there is no prevailing, official, or established religion in Cyprus. The five main religions of the island generally enjoy a similar constitutional and legal status. Taking also into account social realities the Orthodox Christian religion is the majority religion, and the Islamic religion is the religion representing the other major community of the island. In view of the above, the three religious minorities that are explicitly recognized by the Constitution are the Maronites, the Armenians, and the Roman Catholics (Latins), i.e. the “religious groups”. All three religious groups have collectively opted to belong to the Greek Community within the meaning of Art. 2(3) of the Constitution. 

 

The system is one of equal promotional neutralism, in the sense that each religious belief is considered as equally worthy of being fulfilled and there is a demand for equality in such fulfilment. Where the function of the state overlaps with religious concerns, the state seeks to accommodate religious views, in so far as they are not inconsistent with state’s interests. Accordingly, whenever matters of common interest arise, such as religious education, the State and the religious corporations debate in order to reach a commonly accepted solution; if, however, this is not possible, the State may reach any decision, so long as it does not interfere with the internal affairs or the administration of the property of the constitutionally protected religions

In consequence, pluralism is achieved through the recognition that the state and the various religions occupy in principle different societal structures; religious neutrality is not, however, achieved simply because there is religious autonomy, but also through positive measures on behalf of the state, which aim at the protection of religions.

 

The Republic of Cyprus has ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe, which it considers as applicable to all three religious groups as well as, and without prejudice to their constitutional position, to the Turkish Cypriots living in the non-occupied areas. This effectively means that the definition of ‘religious minority’ thus operates on two different levels: the three religious groups of the Republic (as well as the Islamic religion of the Turkish Cypriots) enjoy the status of a national minority, although they are defined as religious minorities, whereas other religious minorities, enjoy full protection as religious minorities by virtue of Article 18 of the Constitution which safeguards religious freedom. For a religion to be protected it needs not register with the authorities; the only requirement is that its doctrines or rites are not secret. In principle, not only mainstream religions, such as Christian denominations of various kinds, but also less known religions, or new religious movements, have been deemed to constitute a religion in the sense enshrined in Article 18(2) of the Constitution, so long as their doctrines or rites were free.

     Achilles C. Emilianides 

 

 

 

RESOURCES

General information on minority issues (including some references to religious ones) can be found at the page devoted to Cyprus in Minority Rights Group International, World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples.  https://minorityrights.org/country/cyprus  ]

A general overview of the relations between state and religious organizations is provided by

A. Emilianides, Religion and Law in Cyprus, Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2019.

A. Emilianides, State and Church in Cyprus, in G. Robbers (ed.), State and Church in the European Union, Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2019, pp. 231-252.

The issues concerning education and family law are examined in

D. Latif, Dilemmas of Religious Education, Freedom of Religion and Education in Cyprus,  in Religions, 2022, 13(2), 96.  https://www.mdpi.com/2077-1444/13/2/96   ]

A. Emilianides, Family and Succession Law in Cyprus, Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2019.

 

RELIGIOUS DEMOGRAPHY

Data source: Todd M. Johnson and Brian J. Grim, eds., World Religion Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed August 2021)
 
Religion Pop 2020 RM Pct% 2020 Total Pop.
Catholics 11.700 0.97%  
Jehovah's Witnesses 2.960 0.25%  
Jews 206 0.02%  
Muslims 279.031 23.11%  
Protestants 17.000 1.41%  
      1.207.361

 

 

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