Jump directly to the content

Hey, Turks!

The headline on President Obama's speech to the Turkish parliament is his statement that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, but for connoisseurs of religious politics, the real interest lies in this remark:

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. Robust minority rights let societies benefit from the full measure of contributions from all citizens.

Since its opening on the site of an ancient monastery on an island in the Sea of Marmara in 1844, the Halki Seminary was the main school of theology for the Greek Patriarchate of Constantinople. Then, in 1971, the Turks closed the place, on the grounds that they didn't want religious institutions of higher learning to exist independent of the Turkish state. Oh, and the idea that this should become a center for education of world Orthodoxy didn't sit well with them either.

For years, the position of the American government has been that Halki Seminary should be reopened. Both houses of Congress passed resolutions to that effect in 1998, and the following year President Clinton actually visited the island and urged the same. It's now on the table in Turkey's negotiations to become part of the EU. So in one sense, Obama wasn't doing anything out of the ordinary. But just yesterday, he made waves in Europe by urging Turkey's admission to the EU–a position he reiterated in Ankara. ("Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports Turkey's bid to become a member of the European Union.") The Turks have real reason now to make a move.

Meanwhile, by speaking up strongly for Halki to the Turkish parliamentarians, Obama earned some cred with the Greeks in America–whose religious suzerain is the patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew. They had been annoyed that Obama met with him at his hotel rather than making a visit to the Phanar, where Bartholomew hangs his mitre. Win-win for the president as things stand, big win-win if Halki is permitted to reopen.

(Originally posted at Spiritual Politics.)

Related Topics:Politics
Posted:April 6, 2009 at 1:34PM
Gleanings aggregates what others are reporting. Learn more.
Recent Posts
1 in 4 Pastors Have Struggled with Mental Illness, Finds LifeWay and Focus on the Family
Family ministry has LifeWay Research examine how well (or not well) churches address mental health.
Pew Surprised by How Many Americans Want Religion Back in Politics
Fresh stats on who thinks churches should endorse candidates, whether homosexual behavior is a sin, and has it gotten harder to be an evangelical.
What Evangelicals Think About Scotland's Independence Vote
(UPDATED) After narrow "No" vote, Scottish evangelicals say churches will take lead in building the 'new Scotland.'
Lecrae Brings Reformed Rap to Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show
(UPDATED) Performance with The Roots was the first by a Christian rapper on late-night TV.
Christianity Today
Hey, Turks!