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Turkey: Misperception of Greek Orthodox Christian Minorities Causes Further Separation

The Turkish government has repeatedly demonstrated contempt for the Christian community of Asia Minor, in the conversion of Hagia Sophia and the Monastery at Chora to mosques, and in numerous other ways. This contempt is also manifested in the ongoing denial of property rights and legal identity to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)’s Annual Report, which documents violations of religious freedom around the world, in its latest edition again included Turkey among its Tier 2 violators — that is, countries where religious freedom violations are systematic, ongoing, and/or egregious. The Order reiterates our hope that the international human rights community will direct its attention to the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of all Christians and other religious minorities in Turkey, and that the Turkish government will heed the repeated calls to grant full religious freedom to its embattled Christian minority.

For previous coverage of the persecution of Christians in Turkey, see here.

“Misperception of Turkish Minorities Causes Further Separation,” International Christian Concern, June 9, 2021:

06/19/2021 Turkey (International Christian Concern) –  In a recent interview, the Turkish Greek community perspective was presented on Turkish national television. Laki Vingas, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, shared aspects of what he called a perception triangle that the Greek minority community often finds itself in.

The Turkish Greek community, and other minorities, can be considered foreign despite their historic presence in Turkey. In ICC’s joint report on Turkey, the concept of Christians as “indigenous foreigners” is introduced, including their separation from the supposed Turkish identity. The report outlines, “The formation of a distinct Turkish identity is not only considered a social responsibility, but also a legal obligation. Article 301 of the Penal Code criminalizes “denigrating Turkishness,” a crime which by necessity implies that there is a social standard for Turkishness. Thus, it becomes important for the maintenance of this identity, both as ethnic Turks and as Muslims. Hate speech towards Christians, especially ethnic Greek or Armenian Christians, is common. This content ensures that the social standard for Turkishness is maintained amongst the country’s adult community.”

Second, minorities can be manipulated and used for political gain or public relations. “The remnant of the Christian community in Turkey was given a degree of protection in the 1923 Lausanne Peace Treaty, as was the Muslim community in Greece. However, it had the unwanted consequence of politicizing the Christian presence, creating an expectation of reciprocal international agreements. Instead of religious liberty being upheld and promoted for its Christian citizens, they are left vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation for political gain. Christian properties, institutions, organizational abilities, leadership trainings, and internal governance are just some broad examples of the state leveraging Christians for political purposes,” ICC’s report says.

Finally, Vingas outlined how the Turkish public is often ignorant of minorities and the predisposed prejudices. The erasure of Christianity from Turkey’s history and alienation as Greeks do not fit the ideal Turkish identity, both allow for the inherent “otherness” and separation from society….

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