Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The most dangerous development in international relations is for Christian sentinels to start focusing on a country. If you don’t prevent this immediately, you become a target. Then it will be too late to get rid of this vigil. Turkey has recently joined the list of countries 'to be watched.' The AKP’s turban campaign and the crimes committed against the Christians in our country are the main factors that have caused this Christian interest in our affairs.
Mehmet Ali Birand
There was an article in the December issue of the British Economist that I found very interesting. I scanned through the news and articles of the last two years on the same subject and what I saw justified my worst fears.
The Economist had drawn attention to the conflict between the Crescent and the Cross (i.e.
the Muslims and Christians) and asked, “Why are Christians under danger in today's Turkey?”
Similar questions are found in a series of news and articles in the international media.
This flow of questions started with the hideous murder in Trabzon and continued with Hrant Dink's murder, the horrible massacre in Malatya, the kidnapping of the Syriac priest in Mardin, the stabbing of the Protestant priest in İzmir and other incidents in Antalya and Samsun.
That is quite a long list….
Especially the missionaries had elicited some nervous reactions in Turkey, but there has never been such intense aggressiveness or a murder wave.
What aggravated the situation were the media reports concerning police negligence, the alleged relations between the county police and the suspects and the insensitivity of the judiciary.
Questions increase when the ruling party happens to be the religious AKP that wages a campaign ‘to liberate' the turban: Does Turkey deliberately ignore these incidents to chase the Christians out of the country?
Is Turkey gradually being transformed into an Islamist country?
It would be too easy to relate all these developments to the extreme nationalism that has captured the youth of the Black Sea, a region racked by unemployment as well as “the deep state.”
The failure to attach importance to these events and take the required countermeasures could bring Turkey into a very dangerous trap.
We have to dispel the impression in the West that an Islamist government is trying to scare Christians out of the country.
A widespread impression that “Christians are being hunted” would constitute a big danger to the international relations of any Muslim country. Such situations serve to activate an incredible mechanism.
Thousand of churches from the four corners of the world as well as hundreds of nongovernmental organizations would start to exert pressure on their respective countries. Their media would magnify each incident even if it is not true.
You would get squeezed into a corner until you can hardly move.
Turkey must not be put into such a situation. Today, Christians are more comfortable than ever under the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) government. The government does everything in its power to avoid all misunderstandings.
Apparently, this is not enough.
There are things to be done and easy steps to take. The religious school at Heybeliada (the Halki Seminary) heads that list of positive measures.
Only the AKP can open the Heybeliada Seminary
The opening of the religious school at Heybeliada has become the measuring criterion of the relations between the Turkish state and its minority citizens of Christian faith.
The closure of this school in 1971, the ecumenical status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the handling of the “Greek” real estate in Turkey have always been sources of friction in these relations.
The hope that the AKP would solve this mess has proved to be in vain.
There have been two conflicting attitudes in Ankara during the last five years.
One of these is the “moderate approach” of the civilian government.
The AKP has openly told church officials that it is in favor of opening the Halki School and it is a known fact that the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos has good relations with the government.
However, in spite of all these good will gestures and promises, the AKP government has failed to take the necessary measures to solve this issue.
In fact, Turkey is too important a country to lose time over such small matters, though its rulers fail to recognize this fact.
The presence of the Orthodox Church is not a danger, but an advantage, as demonstrated by the patriarch's lobbying efforts to get Turkey into the EU.
Turkey's EU membership, believe it or not, goes through Heybeliada.
We must prevent our country from falling into a trap formed by religious strife.
Hrant's murderer will not go unpunished
Saturday was the first anniversary of Hrant Dink's murder. There was a tremendous memorial ceremony, voluntarily attended by hundreds of thousands of people. No one can protect the killers in the face of such rare sensitivity. It's become impossible for the police to destroy the evidence. Hrant's killers will be caught sooner or later. I have no doubt about it…
* The translation of M.A.Birand's column was provided by Nuran İnanç. firstname.lastname@example.org