According to a 2011 census, 72% of Montenegrins identified themselves as Orthodox Christians, the vast majority being followers of the SPC. A small minority belong to the canonically unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church. About 19% of the population identifies as Muslim, 3.43% as Catholic and 1.14 as an atheist.
Montenegro has signed several “fundamental agreements” with smaller religious communities; the Catholic Church in 2011 and the Islamic and Jewish communities in 2012.
But no agreement has been reached with the CPS, despite being the largest religious community in the country.
Ministry urged to remove religious symbols from schools
On September 30, the Center for Civic Education, an NGO, called on the Montenegrin Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports to order the removal of religious symbols from all educational institutions in Montenegro, citing the exhibition of an Orthodox Saint Sava icon. in a school in the coastal town of Kotor. In response, the ministry said: “If the image of Saint Sava is problematic because he was the first archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, we would like to stress that the Constitution of Montenegro guarantees the right to express freedom. of religion. We will not prevent believers of all faiths from preserving their identity.
The possibility of religious education in schools was also mentioned in fundamental agreements with the Catholic Church and the Islamic community, stressing that it should be regulated by an additional agreement and respect the multi-faith character of the state.
But the head of the Islamic community in Montenegro, Rifat Fejzic, said it was not something the Islamic community had discussed. He warned that this was a complex issue.
“The authorities should consider how religious education might affect children from minority religious communities,” Fejzic told BIRN. “For example, one or two Muslim children have to leave the classroom during religious education in cities where Orthodox children are in the majority or vice versa,” he said. “It is not at all a simple question and psychologists should also give their opinion.”
On September 28, Catholic Bishop Rok Gjonleshaj told the Pobjeda daily that Catholic children receive religion classes in their local churches and such classes at school should cover all religions.
“It is helpful to read and interpret informative stories from the Bible, the Koran and other polytheistic religions in school so that children can learn to respect other religions,” Gjonleshaj said.
Need for debate