Sunday, August 15, 2010

Historic moment for Hellenic Rights in Turkey

Those who follow this blog may remember last year's Ethnic Pontian Pilgrimage to the Panagia Sumela Monastery. It was held just days after the Turkish Prime Minister had promised change towards the treatment of religious minorities and was Turkey's first chance to show its commitment to those promises and as suspected, Turkey failed. I closed that blog post by asking Turkish Parliament Speaker Mehmet Ali Sahin the following;

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.

Well its been a year and those brave ethnic Hellenes have returned to the holy monastery, however, instead of finding religious hatred, they found a Turkey actually keeping to its promises. This year's Pilgrimage was the first Divine Liturgy, after 88 years allowed at the monastery by Turkish authorities. At least 1,500 pilgrims attended the historical liturgy, which is Turkey's first true sincere attempt to keep its promise of change towards its religious minorities.

Historical Liturgy in Trabzon
15 August 2010

Turkey: Patriarch Holds Historic Mass At Monastery
Turkey August 15

Dear Prime Minister Erdo─čan,

This is the type of example you must continue to present to the world of Turkish tolerance. Allowing Turkish citizens, Orthodox Christians,and the International community the right once a year to gather at the Panagia Sumela Monastery is a good first step, however it must not end here. The Turkish government must continue to push forward. Turkey must open itself and embrace all its citizens regardless of religious affliation. I hope this historic event is the beginning of a new Turkey and not a one time publicity stunt and continuation of the Turkish illusion of change and tolerance.