Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Murdered journalist Dink wins court case

The European Court for Human Rights has ruled in favour of the (murdered) Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and his family. Dink filed the case almost four years ago. The Turkish state didn’t do enough to protect Dink’s life and didn’t respect Dink’s freedom of expression. The news appeared in several Turkish media outlets on Monday.

Sources say the verdict is set to be announced in September. Dink started the court case in January 2007, a week before he was killed in Istanbul by a young nationalist. Dink, who was known for his efforts to reconcile Turks and Armenians, was convicted of ‘insulting Turkishness’, and he wanted the European Court to overturn that conviction.

After his death his family went to the same court to sue the Turkish state for negligence: soon it became clear that many high-ranking police officers and security service personnel knew about the murder plans but took no action to prevent the murder. The Court heard both cases together.

The case has got a lot of renewed media attention in Turkey over the previous week. Last week the official defence sent to the Court by the Turkish state was leaked. It asserted that Dink incited hatred with his articles and referred to a case of the German state against a neo-Nazi. The comparison between Hrant Dink and a neo-Nazi angered many Turks.


Turkey's top religion official supports opening of St Paul's Church

Turkey's chief official for religious affairs Tuesday called for the reopening of the historic St Paul's Church in the birthplace of the saint in the south of the country, supporting a long-running Christian initiative.

In an interview to the Turkish daily Milliyet that was confirmed by his office, the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) in Ankara, Ali Bardakoglu said: "I would prefer if the church was used as a church, not as a museum."

Turkey had the duty to ensure religious freedoms on its own territory, Bardakoglu said. He pointed out that there were more than 3,000 mosques in Europe, and that he was alarmed about the ban of minarets declared in Switzerland after a referendum in November 2009.

"If the place is a holy site for Christians and they want to conduct religious services there, then there is no reason for a ban," he said.

The church of St Paul's in Tarsus, a building dating back to the 12th century, was confiscated by Turkey in 1943 and used as a warehouse.

Religious freedom should be a two-way street, but is not in Islam

Though the subject of the Cordoba Mosque proposed for construction near ground zero in New York has been in the news for several weeks, recent comments by political leaders have brought new attention. The issue is fairly simple.

A group of Muslims want to build a multimillion-dollar mosque and multipurpose Islamic center just next to where the Twin Towers stood until Sept. 11, 2001. The proposed religious center would occupy a building that an engine from one of the airplanes struck, raising the argument that it should be protected as a historical site and not used for any private purpose.

But the real concern is that the construction of a mosque next to the ruins of the once world-famous icons of Western capitalism and strength destroyed by a team of highly committed Islamic jihadists simply endorses their success. Numerous writers have pointed out that historically, whenever Islam gains political, economic and military control over an area, it most often builds a mosque in a prominent place as a symbol of victory. (Think of the computer game, “Age of Empires.” In the final stage of empire development, the player can build a religious monument.)

Respect seemingly should be a two-way street. Recently while visiting some friends in Turkey (99.9 percent Muslim population) I was enjoying an evening of conversation and tea-drinking under a gazebo in the garden behind a bed and breakfast. The evening air was cool and clean, and I was quietly strumming my guitar. No problem, until the local mosque starting broadcasting the evening call to prayer. Still no problem. Few Turkish people actually drop what they are doing and go to their ritual prayers.

But a problem arose when another guest in the hotel informed me that all music should cease during the call to prayer. In other words, I should have stopped strumming my barely audible $50 acoustic guitar. But, I replied, I'm not a Muslim, and Turkey claims to have freedom of religion.

The guest said, “If I was in a church, I should respect what is going on there.”

“True,” I said, “but we are sitting in a garden behind a public hotel several blocks from the mosque. This isn't the mosque.”

In a recent poll in Turkey, 60 percent of the country said no religion other than Islam should be allowed. According to historical Islamic law, no church can be built near a mosque and no religion other than Islam is allowed to publicly practice or spread its beliefs.

From a global perspective, the problem is not so much what is happening in New York with the proposed mosque near ground zero. Its builders may or may not be consciously erecting it as a symbol of conquest. The problem is that in Islam respect almost always runs in one direction. The majority of Americans are usually willing to tolerate diversity of belief, and willing or not, our Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.

But what do you do with a “religion” that is also a political system? Islam never had the teaching to “give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.” It has Shariah law that teaches, “Everything is Allah's, throne and pulpit, give everything to him.” That's what the word Islam means, submission to Allah. America will allow mosques in every city, village and hamlet, but don't expect the favor to be returned in Cairo or Medina or Pakistan.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

International Congregation of Agia Sophia Calls for Lift of the 557 Year-Old Blockade on Agia Sophia, The Great Christian Church in Istanbul, Turkey

International Congregation of Agia Sophia Calls for Lift of the 557 Year-Old Blockade on Agia Sophia, The Great Christian Church in Istanbul, Turkey | Business Wire
-Chris Spirou, President of the “International Congregation of Agia Sophia,” www.freeagiasophia.org, has asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to return the ancient Basilica of Agia Sophia, the seat of Orthodox Christianity for over one thousand years, located in Istanbul, Turkey, to a functioning Orthodox Church.

According to the International Congregation of Agia Sophia, Agia Sophia, named for God’s holy wisdom, was violently and illegally seized by the Ottoman Turkish forces during the conquest of Constantinople in 1453. It was then converted into a mosque, its religious icons, frescos, and holy sites desecrated, and is currently a state-run museum.

“Lift the 557 year-old blockade on the holy Church of Agia Sophia - so we may pray in it,” said Mr. Chris Spirou, president of the International Congregation.

“Mr. Prime Minister - you and your government have it in your power to do the right thing, to undo the sacrilege of the seizure of our holy church, Agia Sophia, and return it to Orthodox Christians, which was and remains the center of worldwide Orthodox Christianity, just as the Vatican represents the locus of worldwide Catholicism.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Thousands of Orthodox Christians to attend liturgy at monastery in Turkey

The Canadian Press: Thousands of Orthodox Christians to attend liturgy at monastery in Turkey
Local officials say thousands of Orthodox Christians from Greece, Russia and Georgia will attend mass to be held at a historic monastery in Turkey for the first time since 1923.

Turkish authorities have reopened the Byzantine-era stone monastery of Sumela near the Black Sea — built nearly 1,000 feet into the side of a mountain — for once-yearly worship.

Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, will hold the first liturgy there on Sunday.