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US urges Turkey to reopen the Theological School of Halki

The United States has called on Turkey to immediately reopen the Theological School of Halki. In its annual report about Religious Freedom around the world for the year 2018, the US State Department criticized that despite previous assurances Turkey has not opened the School yet.

“We are urging the immediate reopening of the Halki Theological School near Istanbul,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a press conference presenting the annual report.

Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback added “in Turkey, the government of President Erdogan continues to keep the Halki Theological School closed. We urge the country to allow its reopening.”

The Halki seminary, formally the Theological School of Halki was founded on 1 October 1844 on the island of Halki (Turkish: Heybeliada), the second-largest of the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara. It was the main school of theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church’s Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople until the Turkish parliament enacted a law banning private higher education institutions in 1971.

The Halki seminary has received international attention in recent years. In October 1998, both houses of the United States Congress passed resolutions that supported the reopening of Halki. The European Union has also raised the issue as part of its negotiations over Turkish accession to the EU. US President Bill Clinton visited Halki on his visit to Turkey in 1999 and urged Turkish President Süleyman Demirel to allow the reopening of the school.

In a speech before the Turkish Parliament on 6 April 2009, US President Barack Obama re-affirmed the need for Turkey to allow the re-opening of the Seminary.

In March 2012, during a meeting between Prime Minister Erdogan and President Obama, the first  indicated that Halki Seminary would be reopened as part of Turkey’s efforts to protect religious minorities.

However, Turkey will never reopen the Theological School unless it trades the reopening with concessions for what it calls “Turkish minority” in Greece or with whatever comes in Erdogan’s mind.

Hardly was the US message sent to Turkey and the Foreign Ministry in Ankara accused Greece of “suppressing the Turkish minority in Thrace.”

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