07/12/2019 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – On Wednesday, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled that the government’s decision to refuse two initiatives from the Armenian Apostolic Church to elect a new patriarch violated the right of religious freedom. The ruling, however, comes too late and does not make any substantial impact on solving the religious freedom of Christians.
The Turkish government has run interference on the Armenian Church’s Patriarchal election for over a decade. Their argument is based on Ottoman era rules which prevent a patriarchal election while the patriarch is still alive. Numerous legal petitions had been made by the church over the past decade seeking to resolve the issue while their patriarch lay in a mysterious coma. The patriarch finally died this past March and last week the church was allowed to elect a temporary patriarch.
The court ruling on Wednesday may be critical of the government’s actions—but the patriarch’s death months earlier makes the ruling too late. The ruling says nothing of how to proceed given this new circumstance. It is expected that the government will continue to run inference in the church’s affairs, although their strategy must now evolve given the new circumstances.
The Armenian community in Turkey have suffered heavily because of their faith and ethnicity. In 1915, 1.5 million Armenians were ethnically cleansed from the country. The few who remain continue to be subjected to limitations of faith practice and regular community harassment.
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