Eyeing Halki, Greek-Turks warm to mosque in Athens
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
The reopening of Halki seminary on Istanbul’s Heybeliada island was revived after the Turkish PM offered financial aid to build a mosque in central Athens. Daily News Photo / Emrah GürelRepresentatives of Greek Turks have welcomed warmly the idea of building a mosque in Athens, following Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s statement that such mutual steps made in good faith would aid in reconciliation.
“There should be three or four mosques, not only one. This is about Greece’s perspective on human rights and religion. But the re-opening of Istanbul’s Halki Greek Orthodox seminary is another issue,” Nikos Uzunoğlu, the head of the International Federation of Istanbul Greeks, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday. Erdoğan offered Ankara’s help in building a mosque in Athens after meeting with his Greek counterpart, Antonis Samaras, in Doha on Jan. 29.
“We said it would be important for Muslims coming to Athens for tourism and other purposes to have a place to worship. Mr. Samaras was warm to the idea – they said the move has already passed Parliament,” Erdoğan said, adding that such mutual steps made in good faith would aid in reconciliation. The meeting comes amid renewed talk of reopening Istanbul’s Halki Greek Orthodox Seminary.
Principle of reciprocity
Uzunoğlu said the two issues are separate so the re-opening of Halki should not be discussed in terms of the principle of reciprocity. Laki Vingas, a council member of the Directorate General of Foundations, echoed Uzunoğlu’s words. “The re-opening of Halki should have been left aside from politics and should not be discussed in terms of the principle of reciprocity,” Vingas said.
Stelyo Berber from the Fener Hagia Yorgi Church Foundation has also said the re-opening of Halki should not be assessed in terms of the principle of reciprocity.
“They shouldn’t say ‘a mosque for the re-opening of Halki.’ The need for a mosque should be satisfied separately.”
During his talk with Samaras, Erdoğan discussed the issues of restrictions on Turks and Muslims living in Western Thrace, including the freedom of worship, the establishment of associations, the right to own property and the appointment of 240 religious teachers for the community.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said the government is supporting the reopening of the Halki Greek Orthodox Seminary after it has been closed for more than four decades.