Halki Seminary opened its doors in 1844. 127 years later, in 1971, the Turkish government slammed those doors shut. Since then, the continued closure of Halki Seminary has stood as a grim symbol of the plight of religious minorities in the greater Middle East.
The closure of this critical seminary is just one part of the Turkish government’s other violations against the Ecumenical Patriarchate (for background, read HALC’s religious freedom primer here). Let there be no mistake: the closure of Halki Seminary by the Turkish government in 1974 has been roundly condemned by governments and international organizations around the world. The United Nations, the European Union, the United States government, the Greek government, and countless other entities point out the fact that the continued closure of Halki Seminary violates the Treaty of Lausanne, the Turkish constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nation’s charter.
Perhaps it is because the chorus to reopen Halki Seminary has been so strong that the Turkish government has found itself time and time again feigning action on the issue. Whenever pressure mounts for action, Turkey drops PR crumbs of purported “progress” — always just enough to satisfy journalists that there’s been a denouement and resolution to the conflict so that they move on to another story, and just enough to eek out a smiling photo op with government officials.
In just the last decade alone, the Turkish government has made broken promise after broken promise that the reopening of Halki is on the horizon. To quote Aesop, “after all is said and done, more is said than done.” The world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians deserve more than words. They deserve action.
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