The United States has called on Turkey to respect the right to freedom of religion and reopen the Halki Seminary on İstanbul’s Heybeliada island as July 29 marks the 50th anniversary of the closure of the school.
“The United States continues to urge the Turkish government to respect the right to freedom of religion or belief as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and allow the reopening of the Halki Seminary. Moreover, we call upon the government of Turkey to allow all religious groups to again train their clergy within the country,” US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement on Thursday.
A key minority problem in Turkey is the situation of Halki Seminary, which belongs to the Greek Orthodox Church and was closed in 1971 after the Turkish Parliament enacted a law banning private institutions of higher learning.
“Today marks 50 years since the Turkish Constitutional Court ruled that all institutions of higher education must either nationalize or close, resulting in the closure of the Theological School of Halki, a seminary of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Eastern Orthodox Church,” Price said in his statement.
Price said the Halki Seminary had operated for 127 years and that its closure deprived the Ecumenical Patriarchate of a training school for Orthodox clergy in Turkey, its home for 1,690 years.
“Since Halki’s closure, those wishing to become Orthodox clergy have been forced to go abroad for their training.”
The seminary still remains closed despite criticism and promises by the Turkish government to reopen it. The situation of the seminary has been cited in various reports on the issue, particularly in the annual country reports for Turkey prepared by the European Commission.