In 1971, the Turkish government closed the
(Heybeliada), the oldest and most important religious education
institution in the Christian Orthodox Church, creating a grave crisis.
This followed earlier
Turkish Government decrees affecting the
Patriarchate including a requirement that the Patriarch must be a Turkish
citizen and that the Turkish Government can veto the election
of a new Patriarch. Previous Turkish Governments had objected
to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople exercising his
rights as the spiritual leader of more than 300 million
Christian Orthodox faithful (the second largest Christian
denomination in the world), tried to restrict him to the
leadership for only the tiny Orthodox community in Turkey and
confiscated Church properties in Turkey. This was a
reversal of several centuries of much greater tolerance.
Although Turkey is
an Islamic country, the government closed all all Muslim
schools as well in an effort to secularize the school system.
As the only Christian Orthodox seminary in Turkey Halki was
closed as collateral damage.
May 2012, Pave the Way Foundation sent 5 letters to the
Turkish government containing a Muslim request for Halki’ s
reopening together with its religious justification. The
request is based on a covenant of protection for the "people
of the book" (a term used to describe Jews and Christians)
guaranteed by the hand-printed signature of the Prophet
Muhammad in 628 AD. The Prophet Muhammed, through his
covenant, guarantees Islamic protection of the Christians and
their churches from all of his followers until the end of
Our letters was received by the Prime Minister, the President,
the Ambassadors to the United Nations, the United States and
the European Union May, 2012. We were told that our request is
being looked upon very favorable. On July 5, 2012, Professor. Mehmet Gormez, the highest Muslim
authority in Turkey made an unprecedented historic visit to Greek
Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I. On that day he embraced the
Patriarch and called for the reopening of the Halki seminary
in the name of Islam and stated:
"As the Religious Affairs Directorate, we see non-Muslim
citizens living in Turkey as an integral part of this country.
Regarding religious freedoms -- freedom of religion, freedom
to receive an education and the sacredness of places of
worship -- we demand for them the same rights that we demand
for ourselves. We think it is a fundamental right for people
from every ethnicity and religion not only in our country but
also in every part of the world to practice their religion
freely, educate their children in accordance with their
beliefs and raise their own theologians,"