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Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

In February 2006, for

In February 2006, for example, a Slovenian priestwas attacked by a gang of teenagers in the parishcompound in Izmir (Smyrna), and five months latera 74-year-old clergyman was stabbed by youngTurks on a street in Trabzon, following whichPadovese told the media, “The climate has changed… it is the Catholic priests that are being attacked.”46 In December 2007, another priest wasknifed by a teenager as he left his church followingSunday mass. 47A leader of the Turkish Protestant community,Rev. Behnan Konutgan, recently recordedcases of violence against church property and thephysical harassment ofchurch members while aThe Turkish noted Turkish sociologistpublic as a whole of religion, Ali Carkoðlu,sees Christians has argued that no non-Muslim religious gatheringin Turkey is com-as dangerous,subversive aliens pletely risk free. 48within society.What little protectivelaw there is, whether nationalor international,does not have the strength to provide adequatedefense. Plain-speaking about persecution inviteshostile reactions, sometimes deadly. The church’slanguage of dialogue is powerfully influenced bythis reality. But there are some voices in Turkeythat do not always cower to the violence-backedtaboos of official Christian-Muslim dialogue or ofthe Alliance of Civilizations.At the end of 2009, Bartholomew I, the normallysubservient Ecumenical Orthodox patriarchof Constantinople, appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutesand shocked Turkey’s political establishment.Speaking to Bob Simon, the patriarch reported nosignificant improvement in conditions for thechurch. Instead, he argued that Turkey’s Christianswere second class citizens and that he personallyfelt “crucified” by a state that wanted tosee his church die out. Asked whether Erdoðanhad responded to the petitions submitted to himin the course of many meetings, Bartholomew answered,“Never.” 49Turkey’s rulers lashed out angrily. “We considerthe crucifixion metaphor an extremely unfortunatemetaphor,” argued Foreign Minister AhmetDavutoðlu. “In our history, there have never beencrucifixions, and there never will be. I couldn’treally reconcile this metaphor with his mature personality.”50 President Gül endorsed the foreignminister’s assessment while the head of the rulingAKP’s international relations section, KürsatTüzmen, menacingly retorted, “If there is someonewho is being crucified, it is the politician, securityofficials, and others. If he [the patriarch] is areligious and spiritual leader, he should be muchmore cautious when making a statement. Someonewho really loves his country has to be moreresponsible.” 51Bartholomew seems to have touched a rawnerve. For all its Alliance of Civilizations rhetoric,Erdoðan’s Islamist government has maintaineda tight stranglehold on the country’s Christianinstitutions and blocked reforms that could leadto the growth of Christianity. True, the governmenthas made some minor concessions to Christianinstitutions, including legislation that createsnew but very limited possibilities for Christianfoundations to recover some confiscatedproperty, 52 but this was little more than a ploy toplease the European Union and Washington andpales into insignificance by such hostile measuresas the refusal to reopen the Halki TheologicalSeminary—the only institution in Turkeywhere Orthodox clergy could be trained—beforeGreece and Bulgaria improved the conditions oftheir Muslim minorities. 53 In other words, Ankaradoes not recognize the right of the Orthodox Church,or any other church for that matter, to run a theologicalseminary as a religious liberty but merely46 Asia News, Feb. 9, 2006; BBC News, July 2, 2006.47 Voice of America, Dec. 16, 2007.48 Behnan Konutgan, “Christians Still Second-class Citizensunder Turkish Secularism,” International Journal for ReligiousFreedom, 1 (2009): 99-110; Compass Direct News, Dec.4, 2009.49 60 Minutes, CBS, Dec. 17, 2009.50 Today’s Zaman, Dec. 22, 2009.51 Hürriyet (Istanbul), Dec. 21, 2009.52 Otmar Oehring, “Turkey: What Difference Does the LatestFoundations Law Make?” Forum 18 (Oslo), Mar. 13, 2008.53 Hürriyet, Dec. 21, 2009.48 / MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY SPRING 2011

as an instrument of deal-makingwith Western powers forthe purposes of enhancingthe position of Islam.Indeed, while Turkey’schurches have long enjoyedfreedom of worship, they haveremained without legal statusto this very day. Most of theirwork takes place in the legalframework of foundations thatoperate under the strict supervisionof the General Directoratefor Foundations 54 andother state institutions—includinga secret national securitydepartment whose mandateis to control non-Muslimminorities. 55 They have, moreover,been entangled in labyrinthinenegotiations andlengthy and expensive courtcases for the return of confiscatedproperty as well as permissionto expand their engagementwith society through theprovision of education andother charitable activity. Churches have experiencedgrave setbacks in addition to the abovementioned murders, notably: The state conducteda four-year prosecution of two Turkish,evangelical Protestant converts from Islam oncharges of “insulting Turkishness.” Althoughthese charges were dropped for lack of evidencein October 2010, the converts were forced to payfines of $3,170 each or go to prison for sevenmonths for “collecting information on citizens.” 56Ankara is taking legal action to confiscatelands that historically belonged to the Syriac OrthodoxMonastery of Mor Gabriel (founded in54 Orphan Kemal Cengiz, “Minority Foundations in Turkey:From Past To Future,” part 1, Today’s Zaman, June 16, 2010,part 2, June 18, 2010.55 “Religious Freedom in Turkey: Situation of ReligiousMinorities,” European Parliament, Directorate General ExternalPolicies of the Union, Policy Department External Policies,Luxembourg, Feb. 2008, p. 10.56 Compass Direct News, Oct. 19, 2010.During the twentieth century, Turkey’s Christian populationhas dropped to the verge of extinction. The oldest Christiansretain living memory of the state-sponsored mass deportationsand massacres that culminated in the World War I Armeniangenocide; the younger generation has experienced numerousacts of smaller scale and more discriminative violence. HereOrthodox faithful journey to the Black Sea Sumela Monastery,on August 15, 2010, after the government authorized prayer onthe site in fulfillment of its pledges to the EU to expand minorityrights.379 CE), whose bishop has encouraged persecutedChristian refugees to return to the area andrebuild their villages. 57Less than a year before his death, Padovesewas especially disappointed by the rejection ofhis appeal for the status of the Church of St. Paulin Tarsus to be changed from a museum to a functioningplace of regular worship. Not only hadthe pope made a personal appeal in this respect,but the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Meisner,had asked Erdoðan for the return of the church“as a gesture of European cooperation.” TheTurkish media reported that Ankara turned downthese requests from the pope, Cardinal Meisner,and Bishop Padovese, notwithstanding theCatholic leaders’ pledge to support the buildingof a mosque in Germany on condition that theTurkish government hand over the holy site tothe church, together with permission for the con-57 The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 7, 2009.Eibner: Turkish Christians / 49

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