US Envoy Meets With Istanbul Patriarch

ISTANBUL (Lraper)–Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan met Tuesday with the US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy–Human Rights and Labor–Harold Hongju Koh–in the patriarchal office.

Responding to Koh’s questions about the Armenian minority’s present-day situation–Mutafyan stated that members of the Armenian Community did not encounter problems–as persons–before the courts or administrative offices in everyday life.

"It is true," the Patriarch said–"that sometimes certain persons might just make a face when they hear a non-Turkic name–but that reflects their personal attitude and the Government cannot be blamed for it".

Mutafyan reminded his guests that he had resided temporarily in the US in the late 70s–and that he still remembers that in certain districts the racial–ethnic or religious prejudices were evident. Human beings are the same everywhere–the Patriarch said–however–as persons–we do not witness open or acute ethnic discrimination in Turkey.

When Koh asked whether the Church had a seminary in order to prepare new members for the priesthood–Mutafyan replied–"No–the Holy Cross Armenian Seminary was shut down in the 1970s. Nowadays the building functions as a regular senior high school. There is not even one Christian seminary in Turkey. For that matter–the Moslem and Jewish communities do not have any religious training institutions either. In present-day Turkey–the higher level religious education and theology courses are taught in the Islamic Theology departmen’s in the universities–but they cannot help us solve our problem. We have abandoned the idea of reopening our seminary. "

The Patriarch added that as a minority community–the Armenia’s in Turkey encounter certain problems that result from the regulations of the late 1930s governing minority affairs which are still in force. He said that many of the pending issues can easily find their solutions if those regulations are updated.

He said that he has received information that Husamettin Ozkan–the Deputy Prime Minister–presently works on this issue. "We must allow the new government some time" the Patriarch said–"it’s a new team." He also praised the municipal authorities who try to accommodate the needs of the community.


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