Monday, 30 March 2009

History's lessons for Greek theological education

Recently I was reading about the University of Halki. This is an Orthodox University on the island of Halki which was shut down by the Turkish government. Its history can be found in the following website,, where one can read that: “In 1971, the island of Halki was closed by a Turkish law that forbids private universities from functioning.” (Sounds familiar?)
I am sure that Halki was not the only university shut down by the Turkish authorities, however, what is especially significant about this university is that it represents a religious minority in Turkey and symbolizes the basic human right of religious freedom. This very fact has moved many international organizations in support of its reopening: the US Congress, the EU, etc.
Now, one may more-or-less expect such foul treatment towards Christian institutions in Muslim territories, or from one ethnicity towards another. Nobody, however, would expect Greek Christian Theological schools to be shut down in a Greek Christian country, even if such an action comes in a “legal” dress or indirectly. One should, therefore, be alert to the developments of the treatment of the Greek authorities towards the Greek private institutions and watch closely to see how much Greece has learned from the history of Halki. Are we demonstrating a superior attitude to what Halki has experienced by Turkey or are we ruthlessly out to close “legally” all the Halkis in our own country?
When an institution is the primary place of learning and education for the ministers of a particular religious community, every effort should be made by the local authorities to safeguard its existence and continuing service to the community. This is underlined in the press release for Halki: “The Theological School of Halki was created as the primary place of learning and education for the Orthodox priesthood of all denominations. Its closure constitutes a breach of Article 40 of the Lausanne Treaty and Article 24 of the Turkish Constitution which both guarantee religious freedom and education. Their provisions are also embodied in Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights and therefore the closure of the Halki Seminary can only be viewed as an illegal abuse of human rights and a violation of democracy and international law.
I fully support the reopening of Halki while, at the same time, I advocate that we learn history’s lessons and take all precautions against repeating it.

1 comment:

  1. And, here is article 40 of the Lausanne Treaty:

    Treaty of Lausanne
    Article 40

    Turkish nationals belonging to non-Moslem minorities shall enjoy the same treatment and security in law and in fact as other Turkish nationals.
    In particular, they shall have an equal right to establish, manage and control at their own expense, any charitable, religious and social institutions, any schools and other establishments for instruction and education, with the right to use their own language and to exercise their own religion freely therein.