Monday, August 17, 2009

Ethnic Pontian Pilgrimage faces set back in Trabzon

Days after the Turkish Prime Minister promised change towards religious minorities, ethnic Pontians from Russia and Hellas were met with a reminder that change doesn’t happen overnight. A heroic group of roughly 500 Hellenes, including the Thessaloniki Gov. Panayotis Psomyadis and Russian Parliamentarian Ivan Savidis, were denied the right to light candles and pray outside the former ethnic Pontian Sumela Monastery. As seen below, Museum Director, Nilgun Yilmazer, prevented the group from continuing their ceremony.

The Director informed the group that it was apparently against the law to perform a ‘religious ceremony’ outside a museum in Turkey. The group of ethnic Pontian Hellenes was later forbidden from entering the nearby town center. In response to the incident, Turkish Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin had the following remarks, “It is forbidden to perform religious rites in these places even if the place belongs to Muslims. We cannot accept non-Muslim residents of Turkey or tourists misusing these places. Everybody has to obey the rules of the country they are visiting. It is not suitable for a civilized person to push the limits here."

Mr. Speaker I’m pleased to hear that this law which bans religious rites at locations such as the former Sumela Monastery is not biased and also agree with you that everyone should and must obey the laws of the country in which they are visiting. However, in the wake of Prime Minister Erdogan’s surprise meeting with indigenous religious leaders. How are ethnic Hellenes with Turkish Citizenship suppose to feel ‘loved and respected’ when their religious centers inside their own country are closed to them? How are they supposed to feel safe when their spiritual and ethnic brothers and sisters are unwelcomed? If Prime Minister Erdogan and his administration were serious about turning over a new leaf, they should consider re-opening the Sumela Monastery to Orthodox Christians.

Trabzon official takes wind out of tourists' rites
Monday, August 17, 2009
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