Giving thanks for the religious freedom we have!


Perusing, I found out some things I really didn’t know about Turkey and its treatment of the Christian church. Turkey is supposed to be one of the most accommodating of Muslim nations… and yet HERE are some astounding facts:

In a fine essay in Newsweek, George Weigel notes some of the restrictions placed on Christians in Turkey. The Orthodox Church cannot govern itself. Turkish law decides that the ecumenical patriarch must be a Turkish citizen living in Turkey. A recent memorandum from the patriarchate said, “The result of these restrictions is that in the not so distant future the Ecumenical Patriarchate may not be able to elect a Patriarch.” The Turkish government closed the patriarchate’s only seminary in 1971 and has refused numerous requests to reopen it.

The government refuses to grant the patriarchate legal “personality,” in defiance of the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which defined the legal position of minorities in Turkey. Refusing to recognize the patriarchate as a legal entity means that it exists at the sufferance of the government and is subject to the waxing and waning of political whims and passions. In Turkey, popular passions about “Christian” and “Greek” influence are frequently paranoid in character and intensity.

The government refuses to give work permits to non-Turkish citizens who want to work at the patriarchate. So the handful of non-Turks at the Phanar, as the site of the patriarchate is called, have to leave the country every three months to renew their tourist visas. Moreover, the patriarchate is not allowed to own property. It owns none of the churches, schools, or monasteries under its jurisdiction, and the state has recently seized the thirty-six cemeteries where are buried the generations of the Orthodoxy that once was. The state decides who can teach in schools that serve the Orthodox, as well as which books may be allowed in school libraries.

Writing on the eve of the pope’s visit, Weigel said: “No Christian community in the West would tolerate such conditions, which involve violations of basic human rights. If Turkey is to be the model of a modern Islamic society, it must remove restrictions on the exercise of some of the most fundamental aspects of religious freedom: the freedom of religious communities to educate their people, perform works of charity and choose their leaders according to their own theological self-understanding.

WE NEED TO PRAY FOR OUR CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS AROUND THE WORLD! And give thanks for the freedom to worship that we have here in the United States…


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