Sunday, May 27, 2012

Turkish government hasn’t reopened Greek Orthodox seminary

The Turkish prime minister has promised to reopen the seminary. But it has not yet been reopened.

“Let me start by saying that we respect everyone’s faith and belief and we also believe that everyone should be free to exercise and practice their beliefs,” Gul said through an interpreter. “This is something we believe in, frankly and truly, the government believes in this. But there are some issues, problems, that need to be resolved and we’re taking some steps to resolve them.

“The issue of the seminary has to do with the constitution and the principle of secularism,” he said. “We have to treat all religions equally. And to find a solution to the seminary it was suggested to attach it to the department of theology under the Istanbul University, but this was not a suggestion that was accepted. This is something that we’re looking into.

“People of all faiths should be free to learn their faith and teach it, and I’m sure that with this work that is ongoing with the drawing up of the constitution, this is something that can be resolved,” Gul said.

I mentioned to him that there were once thousands and thousands of Greeks in Istanbul, that Greeks and Muslims had lived there together for centuries, but that in the last 100 years or so, under the secular Turkish state, that number has dwindled.

Does Gul see the number increasing or decreasing with the new promises of tolerance and acceptance of minority rights?

“We are aware of it,” Gul said. “We are in constant contact with our Orthodox citizens, with the patriarch and the leaders of the religious communities, and they are very pleased with the steps we’re taking.”

“When we were in the opposition, there were some who would describe us as radical and say that if we ever came into government we would take Turkey away from the West,” Gul said. “But I think these emerging countries get responsibility, they will act rationally.”

So far, with chaos on all her borders, Turkey has been acting rationally and well.

“Opening Halki would be seen so positively,” said Bishop Demetrios. “To talk of religious freedom, and then to demonstrate it to the world. That would tell the world that Turkey has truly changed.”

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