A delegation of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle to Washington, D.C. has met with the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) regarding the status of religious minorities in Turkey and the recent Muslim prayers recited at Hagia Sophia.
The meeting occurred during the Archons' trip to Washington last week, before the recent political turmoil in Turkey. However, it highlights important issues that still exist with religious minorities in Turkey even after the welcome reaffirmation of Turkish democracy.
Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of St. Andrew said, "We were pleased that all seven Commissioners met with us to discuss these important issues. We are grateful that they remain mindful of the plight of religious minorities in Turkey."
The conversation centered on the recent Muslim prayer readings held at the Museum of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the creeping Islamization of Hagia Sophia and other Christian cultural sites in Turkey.
The meeting followed an expression by His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, of "respect" for Islam, with a concurrent call for the same courtesy to be paid to "places of worship of our forefathers." His All Holiness was referring to the Koran prayer readings transmitted live from Hagia Sophia every night of Ramadan, which ended earlier this month.
The Archons met with USCIRF Chair Rev. Thomas J. Reese, S.J., Vice Chairs Dr. Daniel Mark, and Dr. James J. Zogby, and Commissioners Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, Sandra Jolley, Dr. John Ruskay, and Ambassador Jackie Wolcott.
The Archon delegation included Dr. Limberakis; the Honorable B. Theodore Bozonelis, National Secretary of the Order of St. Andrew; Archons Andrew Manatos, Mike Manatos and John Metaxas and the Order's spiritual advisor, the Rev. Alexander Karloutsos.
The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle is made up of Orthodox Christians who have been appointed as Archons, an ancient title dating back to the early Christian Church. The Archons dedicate themselves to the defense and preservation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the face of persecution, to the Orthodox Christian faith and tradition, to the well-being of the Christian Church and the inalienable rights of the human race wherever they may be violated. The Archons are under the spiritual direction of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.