ISTANBUL (Nor Marmara) – On the evening of November 29, Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and envoy of President Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, had a meeting with the spiritual leaders and community/institutional representatives of the minority communities of Turkey. The meeting was convened in President Erdogan’s offices in Dolmabahce and the participants practiced social distancing. After taking photographs, the meeting continued behind closed doors.
Participating were Greek Patriarch Bartholomew, Armenian Patriarch Sahag II, leader of the Armenian Catholic community Archbishop Levon Zekiyan, Metropolitan of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Istanbul and Ankara Yusuf Cetin and Jewish Chief Rabbi Itshak, along with lay workers.
After the meeting Minister Gul and envoy Kalin made the following statements. In the words of Kalin, they had the opportunity to go over real issues related to the minorities together in this venue. He indicated that in the last 18 years under President Erdogan’s leadership, a giant effort had been made to secure the rights of religious minorities and to solve problems, and in accordance with the law on Vakifs [religious foundations/institutions] accepted in 2008, numerous properties have been returned. This meeting was an opportunity to discuss churches, schools, and properties about which questions have been raised. The position of the state has been founded on the equality of all compatriots in regard to rights and justice, Kalin said. Regardless of a citizen’s creed, all are equal before the law and the state, and no one can be condemned because of his national affiliation (ethnicity) or religion.
Gul said that this meeting had a consultative purpose and important questions were considered together. The 83 million citizens of Turkey have the same rights and all are first-class citizens. No one can feel excluded because of religion or national affiliation (ethnicity), pronounced Minister Gul.
A communique was published by the Armenian Patriarchate in regard to the same meeting. It indicated that those present at the meeting were in agreement with Kalin and Gul. It stressed that the religious leaders of the minority communities are in agreement that the issues of minorities are becoming a subject of exploitation in international political arenas and are creating uncertainty for them.