AHEPA Δελτία τύπου

Open the Theological school of HALKI

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House Foreign Affairs Committee to
Take Actionon Halki Resolution Thurs., June 7, 10AM

Tell Congress to Urge Turkey to Reopen Halki without Further Delay
Background

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the spiritual home of the world’s oldest and second largest Christian church, spanning 17 centuries. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians around the world, including millions in the United States.

The Theological School of Halki is the principal seminary for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It has been closed by Turkish authorities since 1971. Since its founding in 1884, the school’s alumni include prominent Orthodox scholars, priests, bishops, and patriarchs, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Religious freedom, especially for religious minorities, has been a longstanding problem in Turkey. For the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Turkish policies do not recognize the Patriarch’s ecumenical status, still maintain the power to confiscate religious properties, endanger ecclesiastic succession and refuse to allow clergy to be trained in Turkey as evidenced by the closure of the Theological School of Halki. All of these policies threaten the very survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Turkey’s treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a violation of its obligations under international human rights law and as a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

In March, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) designated Turkey a “country of particular concern” in its 2012 annual report, citing the closure of Halki among its many reasons.

The reopening of the Theological School of Halki would be a welcomed step for Turkey to take in terms of meeting its obligations under international human rights law, and specifically, addressing one of its many violations of religious freedom against the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Status

H.Res.506, calling upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay, was introduced by U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) with the bipartisan support of U.S. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Michael Grimm (R-NY), John Sarbanes (D-NY), and Shelley Berkley (D-NV). It has 28 co-sponsors.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs will take action on the resolution Thursday, June 7, 10 AM.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee must vote favorably on H.Res.506 before it can come before the entire U.S. House of Representatives for a vote.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is chaired by U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). She is a co-sponsor.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Ranking Member is U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA). He is a co-sponsor.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Vice Chairman is U.S. Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA). He is a co-sponsor.
To view the 28 co-sponsors click here.

Act Today!

1. The following members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (with links to their contact pages) are not yet listed as co-sponsors of H.Res.506 (as of 6/1/12).

If you are a constituent of one of these members, please ask them to become a co-sponsor of H.Res.506.
Majority
Dan Burton, Indiana
Steve Chabot, Ohio
Ron Paul, Texas
Mike Pence, Indiana
Joe Wilson, South Carolina
Connie Mack, Florida
Jeff Fortenberry, Nebraska
Michael McCaul, Texas
Jean Schmidt, Ohio
Bill Johnson, Ohio
Mike Kelly, Pennsylvania
Timothy Griffin, Arkansas
Tom Marino, Pennsylvania
Jeff Duncan, South Carolina
Ann Marie Buerkle, New York
Bob Turner, New York

Minority
Eni Faleomavaega, American Samoa
Eliot Engel, New York
Gregory Meeks, New York
Russ Carnahan, Missouri
Gerry Connolly, Virginia
Ted Deutch, Florida
Dennis Cardoza, California
Ben Chandler, Kentucky
Brian Higgins, New York
Allyson Y. Schwartz, Pennsylvania
Chris Murphy, Connecticut
Karen Bass, California
William R. Keating, Massachusetts
David Cicilline, Rhode Island

2. Although your U.S. representative may not be on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, see if he/she is one of the 28 current co-sponsors (click here).

If not a co-sponsor, ask your U.S. representative to co-sponsor H.Res.506
3. If you find that your U.S. representative is a co-sponsor of H.Res.506, then please thank him/her for their support!
How Do I Contact My U.S. Representative?
VIA Internet/E-mail/FAX

If your representative is listed above, simply click on their names.
If your representative is not listed above, but you would like to contact him/her to co-sponsor, please visit www.house.gov/writerep to obtain the contact information for your representative.

VIA Telephone

In addition to writing your U.S. representative, you can also call them. You can contact your U.S. representative through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

VIA Twitter

If you are on Twitter, and know your representative’s twitter handle, use the hashtags #reopenhalki and #SupportHRes506 when tweeting your representative.
Suggested Tweet: @[Congressman’s Twitter Handle] Help advance religious freedom in Turkey. Support reopening Halki Seminary. #reopenhalki #SupportHRes506

Helpful Tips

Identify yourself as a constituent.
Keep your message as brief and as focused as possible.
For expediency, we recommend sending an email, fax or telephoning as opposed to correspondence that is mailed.
If you are calling, ask to speak with the Foreign Affairs Legislative Assistant or Legislative Director.
Remember, members of Congress work for you and they want to hear from you.
Note: For the purposes of record keeping, please send a copy of your correspondence to ahepa@ahepa.org.
This will allow us to know who in Congress has been contacted for future follow-up.

Questions?

Please contact AHEPA Headquarters, ahepa@ahepa.org.

Sample Content for EMAIL or FAX/LETTER

[DATE]

Dear Congress[wo]man [LAST NAME]:

As a constituent from [TOWN OR CITY], I am writing to request your co-sponsorship of H.Res.506, which calls upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay.

The United States has a proud tradition of championing human rights and religious freedom around the world. H.Res.506 further reinforces our nation’s commitment to these principles by urging Turkey to reopen the Theological School of Halki.

The Theological School of Halki is the principal seminary for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It has been closed by Turkish authorities since 1971. Since its founding in 1884, the school’s alumni include prominent Orthodox scholars, priests, bishops, and patriarchs, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Religious freedom, especially for religious minorities, has been a longstanding problem in Turkey. For the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Turkish policies do not recognize the Patriarch’s ecumenical status, still maintain the power to confiscate religious properties, endanger ecclesiastic succession and refuse to allow clergy to be trained in Turkey as evidenced by the closure of the Theological School of Halki. All of these policies threaten the very survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

H.Res.506 enjoys strong bipartisan support, including the support of House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman. Moreover, President Barack Obama, in an address to Turkish parliament in April 2009, stated, “Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond.”

Therefore, I ask you to add your support to this important issue by becoming a co-sponsor of H.Res.506.

Thank you for your consideration.

Respectfully submitted,

[NAME]
[FULL ADDRESS]

AHEPA PRESS RELEASE

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AHEPA Applauds House Committee Passage of Halki Resolution

Resolution Calls on Turkey to Reopen Halki Seminary without Condition and Further Delay

WASHINGTON – The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), a leading association for the nation’s three million American citizens of Greek heritage, and Philhellenes, applauds passage of H.Res.506, calling upon the Government of Turkey to facilitate the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on Thurs. June 7, 2012, announced Supreme President Dr. John Grossomanides. The resolution passed by unanimous consent.

“The resolution’s passage reaffirms that it is time for Turkey to advance religious freedom in its country by reopening the Theological School of Halki without conditions or further delay,” said Dr. Grossomanides. “We deeply appreciate the efforts of Congressman Gus Bilirakis, who sponsored and championed the resolution, the support of leadership of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and the resolution’s thirty-one co-sponsors. We call for the House Leadership to bring the resolution to the floor in a timely fashion and for the Senate to pass its version of the resolution, S.Res.196, sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.”

H.Res.506 also welcomes developments that include the historic meeting between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, allowing the liturgical celebration by the Ecumenical Patriarch at the historic Sumela Monastery and the return of the former Greek Orphanage on Buyukada Island to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It also urges Turkey to address other longstanding concerns pertaining to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

“The resolution is well-balanced piece of legislation,” added Dr. Grossomanides. “It stands in the proud American tradition of championing religious freedom around the world.” Dr. Grossomanides also thanked the grassroots efforts of the Greek American community which helped to reinforce the importance of reopening the Theological School of Halki to the community.

To read Congressman Bilirakis; statement on the resolution’s passage, please click here.
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Obama administration to Turkey: Reopen Halki Seminary.

Foreign Policy Association, by Hannah Gais, on July 30th, 2014
In an annual report released by the Department of State this week, the Obama administration has yet again pressed Turkey to live up to its commitment as a democracy to ensure religious freedom, citing the need to reopen an Eastern Orthodox seminary that’s been closed for decades.
Turkey is a “tier 2” country according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), meaning it’s not a “country of particular concern” (i.e., a country, according to the Department of State, “engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom” that are “systematic, ongoing and egregious”) but there are certain worrisome tendencies. According to USCIRF, these include: listing one’s religion on ID cards, the troubled religious freedom climate in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, a failure to officially recognize certain minority groups such as the Alevis, rising anti-Semitism, and an overall deterioration of both online and off-line privacies and freedoms throughout the past year.
In other words, Turkey is no Burma, but it’s not behaving well either.
The Department of State and USCIRF’s reports, as well as recent statements from members of the Obama administration highlighted a particular issue that’s been troubling the Eastern Orthodox community for decades, namely the reopening of Halki Seminary. Located off the coast of Istanbul on the island of Halki (Greek) or Heybeliada (Turkish), the seminary was once a training center for a number of key Orthodox figures, including Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the “head” of the Orthodox Church.
However, following a decree that all private educational institutions either tie themselves to a state university or shut down, Halki was forced to close its doors in 1971. And while the closure “was not directly aimed at the Halki Theological School,” it’s become a sticking point for already-strained Greek-Turkish relations. In Greece’s (and the U.S.’) view, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul have done nothing but issue hollow promises. Meanwhile, other AKP officials have issued quid pro quos, one going so far as to state in December 2013 that Turkey will not take a step until Greece…opens Fethiye Mosque in Athens.”
The Obama administration has taken up the issue of Halki in an effort to keep Turkey reneging on its responsibilities as a democratic state. Reopening the seminary demonstrates a real commitment to minority rights and religious freedom, two cornerstones of any healthy democracy. Furthermore, as USCIRF’s report and statements from the president and vice president demonstrate, reopening Halki is viewed as a step to securing minority groups’ trust, which can only lead to a stronger, healthier state. It’d send a clear message that the Turkish government is committed to working with, not against, minority groups.
“The right to decide who the Patriarch is, is not the business of any State to determine….The right to reopen Halki Seminary is basic. And the protection of the holy places and the heritage sites in Turkey is absolutely necessary. It is basic. It is the essence of religious freedom,” said Biden earlier this month at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America’s 42nd Biennial Clergy-Laity Congress in Philadelphia. “And as my friends in the community know, I’ve had that direct discussion with Prime Minister Erdogan, whom I know well….I’ve been direct; and I believe, I believe that there’s some reason for optimism. That’s one of the reasons I went from championing the cause in the Senate to championing the cause as Vice President – telling anyone who would listen that it’s long past time to realize the long sought-after goal of reopening Halki Seminary.”
Biden’s statement echoes one made by President Obama five years ago on Turkey’s need to commit to a forward-thinking democracy.
“Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening the Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond,” emphasized the president.
For Turkey, now would be a good time to send that important signal. From cracking down on social media sites to corruption scandals, the past year has raised serious question about the health of Turkish democracy. Erdogan should take any opportunity he can get to reassure Turkish citizens, the EU, and the U.S. that he’s committed to real reform, not just hollow gestures. Perhaps living up to one decades-old promise would be an easy way to start.
Source: http://foreignpolicyblogs.com/2014/07/30/obama-administration-to-turkey-reopen-halki-seminary

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A trail of broken promises from Turkey on religious freedom: It’s time for the deception to end and the respect for human rights to begin

Hellenic American Leadership Council , Monday, December 17, 2012, Georgia Logothetis

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’s Article 24 guaranteeing religious freedom and education, the European Treaty’s Article IX and Article I of the United Nation’s charter.
Halki Seminary, which sits atop the Hill of Hope in Turkey.
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:
September 2003: During a meeting between Prime Minister Erdogan and then Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomew, Erdogan “said this is an issue that, for him personally, should not be a problem” according to one layman who attended the meeting.
September 2003: “Two days after that meeting, Turkish Education Minister Huseyin Celik openly
 expressed support for the reopening of Halki in an interview published in the
Turkish daily Milliyet under the title A Substantial Move by the
 Government: ‘The Theological School Should Open’. “If the people want a school related to their theology and religion to open, then the state, the government and the education ministry should facilitate 
this issue.”
May 2004: A leaked cable reveals that “Erdogan told Karamanlis that the Turkish government is working on the reopening of Halki Seminary.”
June 2004: A leaked cable states that “The Ecumenical Patriarchate, having learned through a variety of sources that the government is reportedly working to reopen the Halki Seminary.”
June 2004: Turkish television networks report that the reopening of Halki Seminary “will be announced within a few days, in a bid by the Turkish government to strengthen its position relative to its human rights record in Europe.”
September 2004: “The Theological School of Halki of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will not open as was highly expected and despite the many assurances given by the Turkish government to U.S. President George Bush during his visit to Turkey last June, and to Greek Orthodox Church leaders. According to exclusive information acquired by The National Herald, the Council of National Security of Turkey has decided to “freeze” indefinitely the issue of reopening the Theological School of Halki. The Herald has learned that the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was confronted with strong opposition, even threats, by the military generals and other high-ranking army officials-members of the Council of National Security. It should be noted that the army continues to play a pivotal role in the governance of Turkey despite the secular form of government in place.”
April 2005: “Metropolitan Apostolos of Moschonisia, who serves as abbott of the Holy 
Trinity Monastery attached to the seminary and is caretaker for the premises,
 appeared pessimistic about the prospects of a reopening. “The reopening of Halki appears like a midsummer night’s dream. We have 
nothing positive to report. The opening is a condition for Turkey to become an
 EU member and Turkey must meet these requirements, but it will take time.”
April 6th, 2009 : President Obama calls for the reopening of Halki Smeinary in an address before Turkish Parliament.
July 2009: “Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, said on Monday during a news conference with the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, Ali Bardakoglu, that he had information that the seminary would be opened shortly.”
December 2009: Prime Minister Erdogan meets with President Obama and makes promises about protecting religious and ethnic minorities.
January 2010: Erdoğan in an interview with Kriter magazine “confirmed that the Education Ministry has been working on approaches to re-opening the Halki Seminary on Heybeliada, one of the Princes’ Islands off Istanbul. “The seminary issue requires a multidimensional process. We need to examine it in detail for both legal regulations and the education system. The related ministers and institutions have been studying possible approaches.”

March 2012: Prime Minister Erdogan tells President Obama in a private meeting that he has decided to reopen Halki Smeinary (Obama: “I congratulated the Prime Minister on the efforts that he’s made within Turkey to protect religious minorities. I am pleased to hear of his decision to reopen the Halki Seminary.” )
March 26, 2012: Turkey’s EU affairs negotiator Egemen Bağış says “negotiations are stuck.”
July 2012: “It is true that there seems to be increasing discussion of opening Halki in Turkey, which we welcome and encourage, and we very much hope to see that come to fulfillment after all these years — it would be a real positive gesture on religious tolerance and inclusion. So I very much would reiterate what we’ve said many times: We would very much like to see the school reopened.” – Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon
August 7th, 2012: “Everything is ready for the reopening of the seminary. No specific pledge or date has been given to us, but we believe the time has come for it because public opinion, the media, the state and even the opposition are ready. We are hopeful, excited and waiting.” – Elpidophoros Lambriniadis
August 18th, 2012: “Reopening Istanbul’s closed Halki Greek Orthodox Seminary is not being considered by the Turkish government right now, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said on Aug. 18 on a visit to the Western Thrace region of Greece, seeming to put an end to the various articles and reports that speculated it would once again be open.”
To quote Aesop, “after all is said and done, more is said than done.” This Christmas, the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians deserve more than words. They deserve action.
Source: http://hellenicleaders.com/blog/a-trail-of-broken-promises-from-turkey-on-religious-freedom-its-time-for-the-deception-to-end-and-the-respect-for-human-rights-to-begin/#.Vf6B89_tmkp

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Turkey to reopen Halki seminary, Obama says
NEWS 26.03.2012, e-kathimerini

Turkey has decided to reopen a former Greek Orthodox seminary on an island off the Istanbul coast, according to a statement made by US President Barack Obama.
“I am pleased to hear of his decision to reopen the Halki seminary”, the American President said after a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the eve of a two-day nuclear security summit in Seoul on Sunday.
The European Union has said re-opening Halki seminary, a centre of Orthodox scholarship for more than a century until Turkey closed it down in 1971, is key if Ankara is to prove a commitment to human rights and pluralism and advance its membership bid.
During the meeting in Seoul, the two leaders discussed ways to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside, including non-lethal assistance to the opposition and getting Iran to stop supporting Assad’s regime.
Obama is expected to visit Turkey for the second time in June, Erdogan said.
Source: http://www.ekathimerini.com/140315/article/ekathimerini/news/turkey-to-reopen-halki-seminary-obama-says