News

    Tensions Tighten Between Greek Orthodox Patriarch, Turkish Government

    The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, in an interview with the U.S.-based program '60 Minutes' that was aired last week, complained of the poor treatment by Turkish authorities of Christians continues.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople said in an interview on a American television show last week that Turkey's leaders, including the prime minister, have been unresponsive to concrete concerns he raised about religious inequality in the country.  The interview has been condemned by the Turkish government. This latest row comes as international criticism is growing over Turkey's treatment of its small Christian minority which numbers less than one percent of its population.

    One of the world's most important Christian leaders, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, lives in a country where 99 percent of the population is Muslim. As the patriarch of 300 million Orthodox Christians,  he lives in Istanbul, Turkey where his church has been headquartered for more than 1,000 years.

    By citizenship his nationality is Turkish, but he belongs ethnically to the small remnants of the Greek community in Turkey.

    At the turn of the last century there were nearly two million Orthodox Christians in Turkey; 1.5 million Greeks were expelled as part of a population exchange with Greece;  and 150,000 left after violent anti-Christian riots in Istanbul in 1955.

    "Religious inequality"

    The Greek Orthodox Patriarch, in an interview with the U.S.-based program 60 Minutes that was aired last week, complained of the poor treatment by Turkish authorities of Christians continues.

    "We are treated as citizens of second class," he said.

    When the Patriarch was asked why his church and the remaining followers did not leave Turkey for Greece, his answer drew even more controversy, making headlines all over the Turkey.

    "This is the continuation of Jerusalem and for us it is equally holy and sacred land. We prefer to stay here, even crucified sometimes," he said. "In the gospel it is written that it is given to us not only to believe in Christ, but also suffer for Christ."

    While the Greek foreign ministry issued a statement supporting the patriarch, his  comment shocked the Turkish government, who saw him as a supporter.

    Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu was quick to condemn the Patriarch.

    He said that he regards the use of the word crucifixion extremely unfortunate.  "I would like to see this as an undesired slip of the tongue,  he said. "We cannot accept comparisons that we do not deserve."

    Frustation

    What  lies behind Patriarch Bartholomew's criticism is his growing frustration over the forced closure of the country's only local Orthodox Patriarchal Seminary, called Halki. Since Turkey only allows Turkish-born citizens to become the patriarch, shutting down of the seminary essentially cuts off the ability of the Orthodox Church to produce future generations of leaders.

    Deacon Doratheos, who looks after the closed school, says  it is becoming increasingly difficult for the church to replace aging priests.

    "Each church, each chapel must have its own priest.  We cannot imagine a baby unbaptized or one who is dead not to have a priest to conduct the last prayers for him," he said.  "All those graduates before hand from this school, they were very successful as priests, as archbishops and as patriarchs."

    Calls for seminary re-opening

    Even the U.S. president Barack Obama raised the issue when addressing the Turkish parliament earlier this year.

    "Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state," he said. "Which is why steps like opening Halki Seminary will send such a an important signal inside Turkey and beyond."

    Obama again raised the issue when the Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited him this month in Washington.

    The European Union is also pressing for the seminary's re-opening.

    Wilfred Martens, president of the European People's Party, one of main blocs in the European parliament, says the fate of the school is being closely monitored in Europe.

    "This is important on the content, but it is also extremely important as a sort of  symbol," said Martens. "If the school could be re-opened, that is a positive signal that something fundamental changed in Turkey. Religious freedom is a fundamental right."

    Government's offer


    The Turkish government says its willing to open the school if it can be incorporated into a state university. But the offer has been dismissed by the Patriarch who claims the school's specialized role of training priests makes it impossible to incorporate within the country's university structure.

    Metropolitan Gennadios of Sasima is a senior member of the patriarchate in Istanbul. He says the dispute is about fundemental rights.

    "We would like have our school as it was before," said he said. "It is not a medical school or school for engineer. It is school which is just to train priests  for  our community here in Istanbul but also other orthodox churches around the world. "

    A recent study published by the Pew Foundation this month ranked Turkey 14th on a list of governmental restrictions on religion. The list was led by Saudi Arabia, Iran, Uzbekistan and China.  Religious freedom is one of the key demands of membership requirement of the European Union, which Turkey is seeking to join. Observers say the latest controversy over religious freedom will do little enhance that bid.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora