June 28, 2012
The Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is preparing to take the issue of the reopening of Halki Seminary, located on Istanbul’s Heybeliada Island, to the legal platforms, sources have told Hürriyet Daily News.
The Greek minority in Turkey has long awaited the opening of the seminary, which was the main center of Orthodox Greek theological education for more than a century before Turkish authorities closed it in 1971, under a law designed to bring universities under state control. The issue was also on the agenda when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met U.S. President Barack Obama in Seoul on March 25. Obama congratulated Erdoğan for “the efforts that he has made within Turkey to protect religious minorities.”
However, having yet to receive a decision on the reopening despite the government’s positive stance, the patriarchate has decided to take the issue to legal platforms. According to information gathered from patriarchate sources, if the Halki Seminary has still not officially been reopened by the end of the year, steps will be taken to pursue the issue at the court. There is no legal obstacle to the seminary’s being reopened, sources say. The patriarchate will first apply to the Ministry of Education next term, and if they still receive no positive answer on the reopening, a lawsuit will be filed.
Tired of hearing only words
Stating that they were being deprived of the right to education, even though they are citizens of the Turkish Republic, patriarchate sources said they were disturbed that the issue of mosques in Greece has been brought up often recently.
“To demand the opening of a mosque revives reciprocity. We are humiliated; they are trying our patience. We are also the citizens of this state and we are sick and tired of friendly words and promises,” sources said.
In his latest statements about the Halki seminary, Patriarch Bartholomew said he had “become tired and had run out of patience … They are constantly making promises, creating the impression that the seminary is about to open, but there is no progress. The [Justice and Development Party] AKP government has returned some of our foundations, and some of our clergymen have been given Turkish citizenship without any trouble. That’s okay. But still, I would like to ask these questions: Is it really that hard to reopen the Halki Seminary? Why do they let politics interfere with this issue?”
“We haven’t filed a lawsuit before, even though we could have, because we believed in solving our problems on more friendly terms with Turkey. But unfortunately no progress has been made. Until the end of this year, we will fight for our rights with all our patience,” said patriarchate sources. The reopening of the Halki Seminary is critical in order for Turkey to gain international prestige, sources added. “This step will also be a sign of [Turkey’s] commitment to the democratization process.”
In 1971, with the introduction of the Higher Education Law, the Halki Seminary was taken under state supervision. The Fener Greek Patriarchate did not accept this decision, so the theology department of the seminary was closed. After continuing to provide education at the high school level for a while, the seminary was shut down by the patriarchate.