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ICC Note: Last week, a number of Turkey’s religious minority leaders gathered to sign a joint declaration denying pressure on their communities. Although state media touted the declaration as having been signed by every leader of a non-Muslim community, protestant representatives were notably absent. The Order of St. Andrew, who has close historical ties with the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey, has issued a statement that this declaration was signed under duress. According to the statement, Christian leaders were fearful of increased persecution if they refused to sign the declaration.

08/07/2018 Turkey (The Order of St. Andrew) –  The Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, regrets the pressure that the Turkish government has clearly placed upon that nation’s religious minorities in obtaining a statement on religious freedom from them.

Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported Wednesday: “On Tuesday, in a joint declaration, Turkey’s minority community representatives — including followers of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches — said that people of different faiths live ‘freely’. ‘We as religious representatives and foundation directors of societies of different religions and beliefs, who have been settled in this country for centuries, are free to follow our beliefs and practices,’ the declaration read.”

On the basis of this statement, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared on Wednesday: “Turkey has no problems related to [religious] minorities. Threatening language of the U.S. evangelist, Zionist mentality is unacceptable.”

One need not be a “U.S. evangelist” or have a “Zionist mentality” to see that the statement from representatives of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian churches and other religious minority communities was obtained under duress.

The Turkish government also raised concerns with its reference to His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch as the “Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Dimitri Bartholomew,” as reflected in this Hürriyet Daily News report. This usage once again denies His All-Holiness his rightful Ecumenical status. The undivided Christian Church bestowed the honor of the title of Ecumenical Patriarch upon the Patriarch of Constantinople, St. John the Faster, in the year 586, and all of St. John’s successors have held it since then. It is absurd for the Turkish government, over fourteen centuries later, to withhold this title from the Ecumenical Patriarch, in a deliberate and calculated gesture of disrespect, while claiming that “Turkey has no problems related to [religious] minorities.”

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