Friday, August 19, 2011

Safeguarding Christian Heritage in Modern Day Turkey

Although Turkey is a secular state, there have been continued reports of discrimination and abuse based on religious belief or practice, as well as routine confiscation of Christian properties through discriminatory laws. The 2007 International Religious Freedom Report stated that religious minorities in Turkey are denied positions in governmental institutions because of their religious beliefs. In fact, Turkey has been on the International Religious Freedom “Watch List” for three consecutive years because of discrimination and abuse based on religion.

As proof of its religious tolerance, the Turkish government brags that it has restored the historic Church of the Holy Cross on Akhtamar Island. However, instead of returning the holy site to the Armenian community and allowing religious services, the church was turned into a secular museum where services can only be held once a year, and only by permission of the Turkish Government. In fact, just last year, a group of children who wished to offer a prayer at Holy Cross were forced out by Turkish police. Today, this historic church, which was once the seat of an Armenian Catholicosate from the 12th to 19th centuries, and what is often depicted as a symbol of Armenian Christianity in Western Armenia, is reduced to a mere tourist attraction.

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