Vote Today to Reopen Oppressed Seminary

July 3, 2009

At this moment, an electronic referendum is being conducted on the CNN’s Turkish news website on the topic of the reopening the Theological School of Halki. I encourage you to read the history of the Theological School of Halki (below) and vote “yes” today. Vote as soon as possible, since this poll will not last for a long period of time. Read the following for instructions.

Visit http://www.cnnturk.com

Cast your vote in the right column down towards the middle of the page. For those who do not speak Turkish, the poll is found in large letters “ANKET” with the question “Sizce Heybeliada Ruhban Okulu acilimail mi?” Yes in Turkish is EVET, then click on the red button below to cast your vote.

BACKGROUND OF THE THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL OF HALKI

The Theological School of Halki (Heybeliada), Turkey was the main school of theology and primary seminary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The School was founded in the nineteenth century to meet the educational needs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well as of the Orthodox Church throughout the world. Numerous Orthodox scholars, theologians, priests, bishops, and patriarchs graduated from Halki, including the current Patriarch, His All Holiness Bartholomew I. The Halki Theological School was closed by the Turkish government in 1971, and since that time has been subject to actions by government agencies that seek to curb its activities.

Halki has received international attention in recent years. In October 1998, both houses of the United States Congress passed resolutions that supported the reopening of Halki. In 1999, President Bill Clinton visited Halki during his visit to Turkey and urged Turkish President Suleyman Demirel to allow reopening of the school. The European Union has also raised the issue as part of its negotiations over Turkish accession to the EU.

The Orthodox Church’s activities on the island of Halki are traced back to the Byzantine period when the Monastery of the Holy Trinity was founded on the island. The School of Theology was established on the grounds of the old monastery after Patriarch Germanos IV visited the island in 1842. Then, with the approval of the Turkish authorities, the operation of Holy Trinity Monastery and the School of Theology began on October 1, 1844, with a special ceremony to mark this occasion.

In a speech before the Turkish Parliament on April 6, 2009, United States President Barack Obama reaffirmed the need for Turkey to allow the reopening of the Halki Seminary: “Freedom of religion and expression lead to a strong and vibrant civil society that only strengthens the state, which is why steps like reopening the Halki Seminary will send such an important signal inside Turkey and beyond. An enduring commitment to the rule of law is the only way to achieve the security that comes from justice for all people.”

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