Monday, January 18, 2010

Head of Religious Affairs expresses support for Halki Seminary reopening

Bardakoğlu expresses support for Halki Seminary reopening
Bardakoğlu said in an interview with the NTV news channel that as a Muslim and the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate he supports everyone’s religious freedom. “We should act ethically and be principled on this issue. Our ancestors opened the Halki Seminary in İstanbul. I have always been in support of the religious freedom of all religious groups in our country,” he said.

Touching upon another controversial issue surrounding religious freedom in Turkey, Bardakoğlu said that a former Roman Catholic church in Tarsus, which was confiscated by the state in 1943 and is now a museum, should be turned back into a house of worship.

Rather than remaining a museum, St. Paul’s Church should be reopened as a church, Bardakoğlu said. “Let churches remain churches and mosques, mosques. People should be able to openly express their religions or irreligiousness. Atheists should also be able to live freely in this society. This does not mean that we approve of atheism. We should also demand the same freedoms for Muslims.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ancient Christianity in Turkey

America Magazine
The strange thing about studying early Christianity in Turkey is that there are not a lot of Christians left in Turkey, the lands that were home to so much of the earliest growth and development of Christianity and the location of all seven of the first Ecumenical Councils. As we discuss how Christianity displaced, person by person, century by century, the pagan gods that predominated the Mediterranean Basin prior to the rise of Christianity, we reflect in our course on how it could even take place at all. How could a mission started by Paul, John, Barnabas, Peter, Timothy, Priscilla, Lydia and others have any success? We focus a lot on the movement of the Holy Spirit, on the experience of Jesus Christ. The ancients were not looking for gods, necessarily, but they were looking for hope and salvation. If the conversion of these lands and people is a sign of God's powerful work, what does it mean when these lands converted by the Christians are no longer Christian lands?

Pope calls on Turkey to give church legal recognition

Religion News: Pope calls on Turkey to give church legal recognition
Pope Benedict XVI has called on Turkey to give legal recognition to the Roman Catholic Church in the Muslim-majority but politically secular nation, which has been criticized for its treatment of religious minorities as it seeks to join the European Union.

Receiving Kenan Gursoy, the new Turkish ambassador to the Vatican last week (Jan. 7), Benedict said Catholics appreciated the freedom of worship, "guaranteed by the constitution" in Turkey. However, he added that "civil juridical recognition" would help the church, "to enjoy full religious freedom and to make an even greater contribution to society."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dutch TV: The miserable fate of Christians in "moderate" Turkey

The Jawa Report: Dutch TV: The miserable fate of Christians in "moderate" Turkey
Muslims in the West constantly squeal about the supposed intolerance and mistreatment in Europe and the US. Switzerland, for example, recently imposed a ban on the construction of minarets. There were angry reactions in many Islamic countries, including Turkey. But what happens when the shoe is on the other foot? How tolerant are Turks towards the Christian minority in their own country? Follow the link to see the video report.

Turkey Christians disappointed: government won’t protect them

Turkey Christians disappointed: government won’t protect them

Hopes for improvements in the rights of religious communities in Turkey in 2009 have once more come to nothing, notes Otmar Oehring of the German Catholic Charity Mission in a commentary for Forum 18 News Service.

Alevi Muslims broke off formal talks with the government over denial of their rights. A high-profile lunch with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in August 2009, attended by five religious minority leaders, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, was followed by a visit to two Greek Orthodox sites. But no concrete improvements ensued.

Intolerance promoted by Turkey's mainstream media has markedly reduced, but local and ultranationalist newspapers and websites still promote such intolerance. No verdict was reached in 2009 in the long-running trial over the 2007 murder of three Protestants in Malatya, or over the long-running attempts to prosecute two Protestants accused of "defaming Islam". Dr Oehring argues for a fundamental change in the attitudes of both society and the government.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Small 'home church’ survives in Istanbul

Small 'home church’ survives in Istanbul - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
Unlike Turkey’s Christian communities that often belong to a certain Christian sect, one church founded mostly by Turkish converts from Islam eschews any denominational categorization. A member of the community says other Christian groups are far from the true path of Christianity. The church has asked the government for land, a building and security, but so far its request has gone unanswered

In the middle of Istanbul, there is a “home church” with people from various parts of the world praying together in joy. Composed of worshippers from around the world, there are Turks, Kurds, Japanese, Chinese, Brits and Canadians inside.
This “church,” on the entrance floor of an apartment building, is connected to the basement by some stairs. The community goes downstairs to the kitchen after the service to have soup or tea and chat with fellow parishioners.
The “home church” is called Dirisu and was named after a Bible verse. Its doors were opened to the community with the permission of the Istanbul Governor in 1999.

Almost all of the church’s founding members were Turks or Kurds and came from Muslim families. The church’s elders – in reference to their founding membership in the church rather than their age – said they are generally people who became Christian in their 30s because of an inner emptiness.

Baydemir and his family from the Pervari district of Siirt in Southeast Anatolia were Catholic, yet he never saw a church building before he turned 20, only encountering one in Mardin during the 1960s.

“We were one of the few Christian families in Siirt but they alienated us because of our beliefs,” said Baydemir. “I am not blaming anyone because they were ignorant.” When asked why he chose to be a missionary instead of following Catholicism, Baydemir said: “All the churches, including the Catholic Church, are full of rules. I had an undefined emptiness inside me; I filled it at this church. I have learned that Christianity is not only a denomination but a lifestyle.”

Sunday, January 03, 2010

One perspective on religious freedom in Turkey

Religious minorities face no discrimination in Turkey, says head of religious affairs - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
The head of Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs said on Saturday he did not believe that religious minorities living in Turkey faced any problems regarding their religious services and practices or the training and appointment of their religious leaders.

"However, if there are any problems, they should be solved," said Ali Bardakoğlu, president of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, in an exclusive interview with the Anatolia news agency.

Bardakoğlu also said that the issue of reopening the Halki seminary should be solved within the context of freedom of religion.

Expressing his directorate's support for religious freedoms, Bardakoğlu said, "If we only respect those who think and believe like us, we will turn life on earth to hell."

Bardakoğlu also said, everybody had the right to exercise the belief they wanted.

Patriarch Bartholomew Feels "Crucified"

Patriarch Bartholomew Feels "Crucified" - 60 Minutes - CBS News
Would it surprise you to learn that one of the world's most important Christian leaders, second only to the pope, lives in a country where 99 percent of the population is Muslim? His name is Bartholomew, and he is the patriarch of 300 million Orthodox Christians. He lives in Istanbul, Turkey, the latest in a line of patriarchs who have resided there since before there was a Turkey, since the centuries following the death of Jesus Christ.

That's when Istanbul was called Constantinople and was the most important city in the Christian world.

Why Muslim culture needs more fun

Why Muslim culture needs more fun - Hurriyet Daily News and Economic Review
A Turkish Muslim friend of mine, who lives with her Muslim husband and kid in California, recently complained about that. “Both Christians and Jews here have entertaining religious holidays that the kids love,” she said. “What can we do on the Eid? Slaughter a lamb in the backyard?”