Friday, October 15, 2010

Ecumenical Patriarch on Turkey in His Own Words

 "Turkey is unique among Muslim nations because it has always enjoyed a deeper harmony between traditional Turkish Muslim values and the secular values of society. Indeed, Turkey is exceptional inasmuch as it is 'Islamic and secular' rather than 'Islamic but secular.' It is the only Muslim society that has interacted with the ideals of the Enlightenment and of the French Revolution. Ataturk's vision for Turkey to join what he termed 'universal civilization' demonstrates that the interaction of Islam and modernity are neither self-contradictory nor mutually exclusive," the Patriarch said.

Bartholomew also said "we stand before perhaps the greatest challenge of history: namely, the challenge to tear down the wall of separation between East and West, between Muslims and Christians, between all religions and cultures of the world. As stewards of this unique historical moment, our challenge is to bridge the great divide and recognize our common human values. This is surely God's model for our world."

The Patriarch went on to say that "upon the creation of the Turkish Republic and its international recognition, numerous radical reforms were introduced aimed at founding a new secular state, including the emphasis on religious tolerance known as 'laik'. The result was the abolition of legal basis for all religious authorities. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Armenians, the Chief Rabbinate, the Roman Catholics and Protestants - all of whom existed under the Ottoman rule - were no longer recognized as foundations of public law."

He further stressed that "in an effort to apply absolute secular rule and impose a separation of church and society, during the early years of the Turkish Republic, the state ingnored the existence of these minorities, even resorting to pejorative description of the Ecumenical Patriarch as 'chief priest'."

The Patriarch then underlined that "for us, as Orthodox Christians, the ultimate consequence of such a policy was the forced closure in 1971 of the Theological School of Halki, the sole institution for training clergy locally and internationally since 1844."

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