Friday, October 15, 2010
TURKS TO RETURN HISTORIC GREEK ORPHANAGE
According to Turkish press the General Directorate of Foundations (Vakiflar Genel Mudurlugu) has made a last ditched effort to comply with the Human Rights Commission mandate. The ruling was set in June by the Court of Human Rights and Turkey almost was in violation of the said ruling. As a result the Turkish Government is re-registering the historic Greek Orthodox orphanage on Büyükada (Prinkipo) back to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. This will officially take place and conclude next week.
What makes this particularly significant is more then symbolism but rather that for the first time on the national and international stage the Turkish Government has had to recognized the Patriarchate as an institution.This sets a precedent as it would be a landmark case the first of its kind whereby the Turkish foundation returned property to a "recognised religious minority".
This structure is second largest wooden structure in the world. Under the Turks it has fallen into great disrepair. It was previously used as an orphanage and was confiscated during the Cyprus conflict.
Built as a hotel by renowned French architect Alexandre Vallaury in the 1890s it was subsequently purchased and donated to the Patriarchate in 1903 by Hélène Zafiropoulo-Zarifi, the wife of Ioannis Zarifi, a banker to then Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid ll. The only stipulation was that it be utilized for house the orphans of ethnic Greek children. This speaks volumes to the children left destitute without parents refugees in their own land. The orphanage was forcibly shut down in 1964 in bitter retaliation by the Turks over tension in Cyprus.
Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew has plans to convert the orphanage into an epi center for inter-faith for dialogue and peace. Simply brilliant!