We requested a review from Stella Protonotariou, Headteacher to November 2007 of the 132 Athens Elementary School where an experiment took place of replacing the Morning Prayer by a poem written by Yiannis Ritsos.
“Many pupils of other non Orthodox faiths attend today’s Greek modern schools which are now multicultural.
According to the presidential Decree 200/98 the pupils who enter the school prior to the Morning Prayer are obliged to attend the assembly area with their Year Group even if they do not pray, respecting their peers who are praying.
Often this is not adhered to as the children when in school at the time of the prayer they want to be part of the team and participate in the first collective activity of the school day.
The children do not wish to feel excluded, odd looking and talked about.
Many a time Muslim pupils took to the microphone and recited “Our Father in Heaven…”
“Why should I not say myself a prayer? Am I not like all the other children? “asked once a pupil of Year 3 and at another time a pupil of Year 5, a Catholic girl, told her teacher that she felt that the other pupils stared at her strangely and made comments on the way she does the sign of the cross.
Parents of children of the non orthodox faith have often requested for their children to participate in the Morning Prayer but without making the sign of the cross.
They themselves were aware that their children were participating anyway.
If discussions were taking place at home the children would react strongly.
Some of the parents opposed as they felt that we as teachers had no respect for their religious beliefs.
It is therefore necessary to find a way such as not to deprive our children from participating in the morning prayer and of course in any other school activity.
I consider their exclusion from the prayer to be an error as well as a violation of their right and is in conflict with the Convention Rights of children a subject taught in school and an official part of the Curriculum.
132nd School after a lot of thought and discussion replaced ” Our Father in Haven….” With the following poem-prayer ”The Morning Star” by Yiannis Ritsos:
“Oh Dear God, we are wellMake, oh Dear god, that the children have a Creek of milk, Plenty of Stars, Plenty of SongsMake oh Dear God all to be well”
The lyrics have been chosen as not to be in conflict with the “original elements of orthodoxy” as required by law , do not offend any other faith, they are simple to understand and make allowances for the other faiths children to pray.
However the local parish objected.
When the Headmistress of the specific school asked them for a common solution, they refused to discuss.
Cont ..: Mrs Protonotariou failed the selection process and her replacement reinstated the “Our Father in Heaven..”.
In the uproar that followed(E has always taken an interest with several reports of “IOU” Mr A Lykourentzos Deputy Minister of Education intervened stating along other comments in NET that he is in the position that he is in, in order to protect ” The Laws of the country” and the ” Greek tradition”.
The Defending Council for Children requested further explanation but they received no reply.
This is what 3 of our commentators in the experiment of 132nd School say:
H Frangopoulos: “The free mixing of different religious beliefs and the comparison of those leads to one distancing himself from Any Religion.
Especially when we are talking about Yiannis Ritsos who was a Marxist and he had no Belief in any religion.”
A Kariotoglou: “It was wonderful to see what they did and bravo to those who took the initiative”.
K Bey: “It was so good….as for the result of this experiment, it can only happen in Greece where there is darkness and intolerance”.
On the light of the position of Mr. Kariotoglou we asked him to pass on the relevant questions to Archbishop Ieronymos. However we received no response.