Deputy PM Arinc signals possible reopening of Heybeliada seminary
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc yesterday met with the spiritual leaders of religious minorities in Turkey over breakfast at Istanbul's Dolmabahce Palace. During the meeting, Arinc heard firsthand about the problems facing Turkey's religious minorities, and told the leaders what the government plans to do to address these. Arinc assured them that every one of Turkey's 71.5 million citizens is a fundamental, sovereign and first-class citizen. Asked later by reporters about the Heybeliada seminary in Istanbul, Arinc said that the government is in favor of reopening it, but that some legal obstacles remain. "We all know that there are some restrictions stemming from Constitutional Court and other court rulings," he said. "Our government considers all individuals in this country to be our citizens, whatever their religious beliefs. We understand their (Orthodox Christians') need to train their clergymen as a requirement of their beliefs. So we're in favor of reopening the seminary (which once trained priests). But there are legal obstacles. We will try to remove those obstacles through Turkey's legal system. We stay in contact with the (Greek Orthodox) patriarch and the other relevant authorities." On the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee's recent passage of a resolution on the events of 1915, Arinc told reporters, "We wish that no one had used past events for political ends. However, people exploit each others' pain. There are Turkish citizens of Armenian descent. I believe that they are also uneasy about such unserious, baseless initiatives. We will never allow any efforts to disturb the peace, tranquility and prosperity of our people and our country to succeed." Touting Turkey's many steps in recent years to promote basic rights and freedoms, Arinc said that Turkey wants its cultures, beliefs and thoughts, which have contributed and guided world civilizations for thousands of years, to coexist peacefully. No one is superior to anyone else in Turkey, added Arinc, characterizing the meeting as very fruitful.