Erdogan and the Christians. Few Promises, Zero Action

Turkey: Erdogan’s dirty game of deception

A surprise visit from the Turkish prime minister to Bartholomew I. But like other conciliatory gestures in the past, this one also risks producing no results. Benedict XVI’s reservations on the entry of Turkey into the European Union. The caution of Vatican diplomacy

by Sandro Magister/Chiesa

ROME, August 27, 2009 – Samuel Huntington called Turkey “Janus-faced,” you never know if it’s a friend or enemy of the West.

* Not on this website. We have exposed Erdogan as a radical Islamist on many accasions and will do so till the cows come home…

Sufi Terrorism in Kashmir: Two Muslim myths get battered by the historical record: the absurd idea that Islam was introduced peacefully in India, and the more common misconception that Sufism has always been harmless.

The same thought must have come to mind for Bartholomew I, ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, when last August 15 he welcomed Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a visit to the orphanage and monastery of Saint George Koudounas on the Princes’ Islands in the Marmara Sea.

It was the first time that a Turkish prime minister had gone to the Princes Islands, traditionally inhabited by Christians, and to a building, the orphanage, which after being requisitioned by the Turkish authorities was ruled to belong to the ecumenical patriarchate by the court of Strasbourg in June of 2008.

During his visit, Erdogan, accompanied by four of his ministers, had lunch with Bartholomew I and with representatives of the religious minorities in Turkey – Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Jewish, Syriac Orthodox, and Catholic – to whom he made guarantees against all forms of religious and ethnic discrimination.

“My neighbor must be met with love, because he is also a creature of God,” Erdogan said, citing a maxim from the Mevlevi Shiite confraternity, which emerged on Konya in the 13th century, with some elements taken from Christianity.

Asked for a comment, Bartholomew I told Asia News: “Erdogan’s presence was an honor for us, and it gave us an opportunity to present our problems directly, although he already knows about them. We invited the prime minister to the see of the ecumenical patriarchate and to Halki, and Erdogan thanked us for the invitation.”

Halki is another island, the site of the seminary of theological formation for the ecumenical patriarchate, which was closed by the Turkish authorities in 1971. Last June 10, in Brussels, Olli Rehn, the European Union commissioner for enlargement and therefore also overseeing the possible entry of Turkey, stated that this entry is conditional in part on the reopening of the Halki seminary.

Erdogan has until December of 2009 to present the authorities in Brussels with an account of the progress that Turkey has made in meeting the standards necessary for entry into the EU. For the patriarchate, this is one more reason to hope that the theological seminary of Halki will finally be reopened and resume its functions.

Unfortunately, however, “Janus” has repeatedly frustrated expectations, showing this and other religious minorities in Turkey not its friendly face, but its hostile one.

Regarding the patriarchate, for example, the Turkish state continues to decline to recognize its religious “ecumenicity.” It treats it as a local body established for the worship of the Greek Orthodox, headed by a leader who must be born a Turkish citizen, devoid of legal personality and therefore also of the right to property. The annihilation of the patriarchate – which in Turkey today has been reduced to a few more than 3,000 faithful – has so far shown no serious signs of turning around.

This also applies to the other Christian minorities. The most substantial community, that of the Armenians, was decimated less than a century ago by a genocide that the authorities in Ankara refuse to acknowledge, and today there are just a few tens of thousands of them left, out of a population of more than 70 million inhabitants, almost all of them Muslim. There are about 25,000 Catholics, with six bishops, 10,000 Syriac Orthodox, and 3,000 Protestants of various denominations.

Like Erdogan, but not for the same reasons, all of these religious minorities have high hopes for Turkey’s entry into the European Union. For them, this entry would mean the recognition of room for freedom that they fear will otherwise continue to be significantly limited.

In Europe itself, however, their reasoning receives little consideration. Some governments there, including those of Italy and Germany, are in favor of Turkey’s entry into the EU, while others, like that of France, are against it. Nonetheless, both sides are thinking in terms of national interest. Calculations involving the oil and gas pipelines that originate in Turkish-speaking, Muslim countries in central Asia, and pass through Turkey, take precedence over those concerning religious freedom.


Against this background, the position of the Holy See also appears two-faced.

On the one hand, Vatican diplomacy takes into account both the expectations of the Catholics and the other religious minorities in Turkey, and the geopolitical factors seen as favoring its entry into the EU. The man most candid in expressing this cautiously optimistic view has been Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, secretary of state, in an interview with “La Documentation Catholique” at the beginning of 2007.

Having stated that the Catholic Church has no “special power to promote the entry of Turkey into Europe, or to veto this,” Bertone said in the interview that “without Turkey, Europe would no longer benefit from that bridge between East and West which this country has always been in the course of history. […] Leaving Turkey outside of Europe also risks fostering Islamist fundamentalism within the country.”

On the other hand, however, Church authorities are also sensitive to the opposing dangers that the entry of Turkey into the European Union could bring: not a beneficial integration of Turkey into Europe, but a “catastrophe” for a continent that has renounced its Christian identity.

The word “catastrophe” is in the title of a book that contains the most incisive overview of these objections. Published in Italy this year, the book was written by historian Roberto de Mattei, vice president of the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche and director of the magazine “Radici Cristiane.” It is entitled “La Turchia in Europa: beneficio o catastrofe?”, and opts decisively for the second of these two hypotheses.

In effect, the historical precedents are not encouraging. Modern-day Turkey was one of the most vital areas of Christianity during its first centuries, and still at the beginning of the 20th century, after centuries of Ottoman rule, it still had deep imprints of this Christian identity, and numerous faithful. Over a few decades, these imprints have also been nearly wiped out by the combined pressure of the exaggerated secularism of Kemal Atatürk and of the Islamist resurgence that ultimately came to power with Erdogan.

Benedict XVI is fully aware of these dangers. When he went to Turkey in November of 2006, it was just a few months after the killing of a Catholic priest, Andrea Santoro, who was shot to death by an Islamist fanatic while he was kneeling in prayer in the little church of Trabzon.

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8 thoughts on “Erdogan and the Christians. Few Promises, Zero Action”

  1. Having spent two years on posting in our embassy in Ankara and then a further year on the Turkey Desk back home, I think I have a good understanding of that country. I should say that I visit at least three times a year as well having a work relationship with those in the same field as I am now.

    Firstly I should point out that I do not support Turkey’s joining into the EU, but should be looking towards its own identity and influence. I am also a supporter of a MedMilAlliance and Turkey should be a part of that, rather than the antiquated NATO.

    To understand Turkey one has to understand three factors that are critical. 1) The Ottoman History is not relevant anymore rather than the ethnic and cultural connections to Turkic peoples in the region. 2) The Attaturk legacy of “nationalist/militarism” pointing to the west is still strong and had divided the country into three distinct groups – being the Upper/Middle Class and Military Establishment, the rural and new middle-class from outside Ankara/Istanbul that are more identified to Turkey’s historic links and faith to Islam and the third group being ethnic minorities, mostly the Kurds with most of these minorities being Muslims from minority varients.
    The third point is about the second of these divisions of what Turkey is. That the vast majority of the population are basically conservative and identify themselves as strongly adherants to Islam. They are by far not radicals, supportive of radicalism but having said that, feel that over the last 80 years or so, their faith has been put to the backwater, supressed and even oppressed. Interesting comments on the CIA website about Turkey noted that the average Turk whom practices basic Islam are more interested in creating a fare and equitable Turkey recognizing its Islamic values but keeping the strong established administration that is now in place than dealing with issues such as joining the EU or even in fact avoiding subjects like the Kurdish issue and what happened in Armenia.

    The reality though is that the pressure of change in Turkey has in fact made for results that most would not expect and not all for the good.

    The old-guard and Istanbul-clique are still in charge of the military and are continuing to enforce certain limits on “any” governement fairly elected. They will not tolerate any criticism of the Attaturk, they insist that Europe is the future of Turkey and that secularism means absolutely no religious values must be part of anything official. They basically handicap the progress of the nation.

    The growing power of the previously suppressed poor and non-secular middle-class have now put them into power. They had a number of times been in power previously but failed in challenging at all the old-guard and the governments collapsed. This time the mandate was so large that the old-guard could say nothing.

    The problem with the new government, with all their good intentions was that they opened the door to the connection with other Muslim nations that the old-guard refused to and though that has helped fix relations with the MENA countries, radicals jumped in as well. Though radicals are not in fact a part of the government, a number of strong religous groups especially in the south east have grew-up and are actively attempting to infiltrate, push and connect with any anti-western sentiment. It is understood that this is happening in Kurdish areas in particular and that at present there is a bettle within the established Kurdish communities.

    Certainly there will be some more sharp changes in the near future.

  2. “I am also a supporter of a MedMilAlliance and Turkey should be a part of that, rather than the antiquated NATO.”

    Who are the allies in this alliance, Solkhar?
    Would that be part (or all) of the Ezekiel 38/39 alliance against Israel?

    1. Probably the first time I find myself in agreement with Solkhar, Mullah.

      Its long overdue to get the ingrate Turks out of “antiquated” NATO and to stop any support to this increasingly Islamic dump. I give it between 5 and 10 years before the ‘radicals’ turn Turkey into another Islamic burka-land. There’s little we can do to prevent it, but a lot we must do to prevent our EUrabian dhimmi polit-props to make further concessions to this abominable construct.

  3. I am assuming that Sokkhar’s MedMilAlliance (google turned up nothing) will include European / North African / Mid East nations (except Israel) … then again assumption can sometimes be unhelpful.

    An expanded search brings up “Mediterranean Alliance”, which existed in the eRepublik role-playing game…

    [The Mediterranean Alliance (MA) was an alliance that mainly consisted of countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, later other countries from all over the world was allowed to enter. ]

    NATO might be antiquated, & Turkey out is a great idea, but there have been recent suggestions that other nations, such as Australia
    and Israel be invited to join.

    It could be the Mediterranean Union (not specifically military), but
    this is proposed to include Israel & Turkey, as well as Morocco… Algeria, Libya and Egypt, PA, Jordan Syria…

  4. There is a discussion that there be a Mediteranian Military Alliance that is in the works under the basis of an extension to the current Mediteranian Alliance, at present it is an idea only because nations that are linked to NATO would not consider it unless it was part of that structure.

    I expressed the opinion that NATO was a post WWII-Cold War concept that needed to go. I have close friends who work for it and would disagree but that is my opinion. I think the reality is that alliances and needs change, even the concept of the UN needs to be thrown out in the wash, put through the drier and brought back as a relevance of what it can achieve.

    Turkey is a good place, a nice country and I could even live there, as I had. It will never fall down the radical sink-hole as the blog-owner thinks, the people were moderates before and the strong secular lobby will ensure that. But the country needs to be careful and deal with the radical elements that are using and abusing the exisiting political and policy confusion as it redefines its own modern identity and avoid the dreams and images of the historic Attaturk or the archaic Ottoman ideologies.

  5. * [Turkey] will never fall down the radical sink-hole as the blog-owner thinks

    If Turkey is, as many students of prophecy believe, the land of Beth-Togarmah identified in Ezekiel, it will be part of the Gog invasion
    of Israel, & God will deal with it accordingly (google togarmah turkey).

    1. Five years, Mullah.

      Either by 2015 Turkey is under a strict military dictatorship or it will be an Islamic nightmare by then.

      The Erdogans, Gulens & company are breeding dragon eggs in the thousands. The chickens are coming home to rrrroooooossst!

  6. Solkhar asserts a lot of things as fact, while apparently being paid for his knowledge of terrorist funding, but if “right-wing agenda-driven blog-owners” (like you) aren’t hitting the bullseye with every throw, you get a lot closer than he does. There might be a consultancy position
    for you, when Western governments stop listening to spin & start looking for substance.

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