Greek National ID Cards

Sir Sigmund Sternberg of the Sternberg Centre for Judaism wrote the following letter published in the April 28, 1995 London Times:

Sir, I agree with Mr Christopher Jackson (letter, April 25) that there is a need for a rational view on identity cards. It may well be worthwhile, as he says, to examine the way in which the Danes have dealt with the matter.

By coincidence, the Greeks are involved in a similar discussion - not whether to issue ID cards, but whether it is right for such cards to include religion.

The small Greek Jewish community totals 5,000. In 1941, 65,000 Jews, 85 per cent of the Greek Jewish population, were deported to concentration camps by the Nazis. Few returned. For fairly obvious reasons, Greek Jews oppose the inclusion of religion on ID cards. In the past, such identification has made it easier for them to be singled out for discrimination and worse.

Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church, with whom I had discussions during a recent short visit, did not seem to understand the problem. There is little anti-Semitism or racism in Greece and Greek Orthodox leaders are receptive to the idea of more contact between the faiths, as indeed are others. A recent revision of textbooks has been widely welcomed as an important first step.

My visit to Greece strengthened my views that inter-religious dialogue is of growing importance in our troubled world. Much more than ID cards is at stake.