Pave the Way Foundation applauds the recent efforts of the Muslim community and Dr. Mehmet Gormez in support of re-opening the Greek Orthodox Halki Seminary in Istanbul, Turkey.
Pave the Way Foundation (PTWF) applauds the recent efforts of the Muslim community, especially that of Dr. Mehmet Gormez, Head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, the highest religious authority in Turkey, in speaking out in favor of re-opening the Halki Seminary in Turkey. On July 5, 2012, Dr. Mehmet Gormez, made an historic visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and declared his support for reopening the Halki Seminary in the name of Islam.
In 1971, the Turkish government closed the Halki seminary, which is the oldest and most important religious education institution in the Orthodox Church. This followed earlier Turkish Government decrees requiring that the Patriarch must be a Turkish citizen, creating a grave crisis for the Christian Orthodox Church affecting more than 300 million Christian Orthodox faithful (the second largest Christian denomination in the world). Even after Dr. Gormez' historic visit, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ reportedly stated that reopening Istanbul's Halki Greek Orthodox Seminary is not on the agenda of the government right now.
Pave the Way Foundation works to identify and resolve obstacles between religions. Becoming aware of this 41-year-old obstacle, the organization took action, and is now working to normalize inter-religious relations by attempting to reopen the seminary using a religious, rather than political justification. PTWF collaborated with the Interfaith Institute at the Islamic Center of Long Island, along with Muslims from many nations, in support of the reopening of the Halki Seminary in the name of Islam.
In May of this year, PTWF sent five letters to the Turkish government containing the Muslim request for Halki's reopening together with the religious justification cited. The request is based on an actual covenant of protection for the "people of the book" (a term used to describe Jews and Christians) guaranteed by the hand-printed signature of the Prophet Muhammad. In 628 AD, the monks of St. Catherine in Egypt requested that they be given protection from the Muslims. This covenant guarantees Islamic protection of the Christians and their churches from all of his followers until the end of time. The manuscript and its translation can be viewed in the peace section on our website. http://www.ptwf.org.
Gary Krupp, President of Pave the Way Foundation, said, "We were delighted when Dr. Gormez made his historic visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch and stated his support of this important gesture made by Muslims to help a Christian cause. This historic visit sustains the legitimacy of our Islamic request made just weeks earlier. We remain very optimistic that the government of Turkey will open the seminary and see the wisdom in restoring religious tolerance."
PTWF Board Chairman Elliot Herhsberg said, "Each American President since the closing of the Halki Seminary has asked the Turkish government to consider reopening it to no avail. Pave the Way Foundation has elected to take a different route by making the request on a religious rather than political basis. We solicited the support of our Muslim friends from many nations and made the request to reopen the seminary in the name of Islam."
PTWF Board of advisors member Sheikh Syed Agha Jafri said, "During these days when violence in the name of religion is commonplace, it is even more significant to raise worldwide awareness of this covenant of protection. The document gives a clear order of protection, in the name of Islam, of the people of the book. It is likely that very few are aware that this covenant even exists, even amongst the Muslim population. This should be trumpeted worldwide to oppose those whose private agendas have insulted and sullied Islam by encouraging violence in its name."
About Pave the Way Foundation
PTWF is a nonsectarian foundation whose mission is to identify and work to resolve non-theological obstacles between religions through the trust garnered from our work to initiate historic gestures between the faiths "paving the way" to removing the use of religion as a tool to justify private agendas and violence.