Wednesday, February 22, 2012

COMMENTARY: Turkey's New Constitution Must Promote Equal Rights, Religious Freedom

This week, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew -- the spiritual leader of more than 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide -- met with members of a parliamentary subcommittee in Istanbul, Turkey that is seeking consensus for a new constitution for that predominantly Islamic country.

Patriarch Bartholomew told the subcommittee members that he favors a constitution that promotes equal rights and religious freedoms for minorities living in Turkey. He also said that he would like Turkey to reopen the Halki Greek Orthodox Seminary that it closed down in 1971.

The Ecumenical Patriarch also stated that religious and ethnic minorities were not able to participate fully in Turkey as judges and prosecutors through a silent exclusion. He said that Turkey should end this discriminatory practice.

We believe that Turkey's new constitution must ensure that all of Turkey's citizens -- Muslims, Christians, Jews, etc. -- are treated equally under the law, and are given equal consideration in the selection of governmental and other positions within the republic.

Indeed, these are critical democratic and non-discriminatory recommendations for Turkey to include in its new constitution -- recommendations that Turkey must be proud to implement, if it expects to follow a path that will make it a world leader in the 21st century.