Bulgaria’s Orthodox Church says authorities should not let Muslim refugees enter the country, claiming that the move is necessary to prevent an “invasion.”
“We help refugees who have already arrived in our motherland, but the government must absolutely not let more refugees in,” the church said in a statement signed by Patriarch Neofit, the head of the Orthodox Church, and other members of the Holy Synod - the church’s top executive body - posted on its website late Friday.
The comments come as hundreds of thousands of Middle Eastern, Asian, and African refugees escaping war and execution in their countries have bypassed Bulgaria and instead entered Macedonia and Serbia from Greece to make their way into northern Europe.
However, some Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi asylum seekers have crossed the Balkan EU member state’s southeastern border from Turkey.
"This is a wave that looks like an invasion,” the statement added, noting, “The Bulgarian Orthodox people should not pay the price of our disappearance as a state.”
Muslims, including ethnic Turks, Bulgarians who converted to Islam as well as some Roma, account for 13 percent of Bulgaria’s population.
The Black Sea state purportedly tried to ethnically cleanse its Muslim population shortly before the fall of Communism in 1989. At that time about 360,000 Bulgarian Muslims left the country for Turkey.
Europe has faced its worst influx of refugees since World War II. The refugee crisis has created divisions among EU states as some of them are not interested in taking in the refugees that are mostly Muslims.
In France, several mayors have recently said they would only accept Christian refugees.
The far-right political groups across Europe are taking advantage of the issue in the hope of using fears of an “invasion” to garner votes in elections.