Members of the US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) recently issued a letter to President Barack Obama, calling on him to reiterate the importance to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the Orthodox Theological School of Halki be reopened. The Turkish leader recently attended an international nuclear summit hosted by President Obama in Washington on April 12-13.
President Obama addressed the need to reopen the seminary one year ago before the Turkish Grand National Assembly. Since then, the longstanding matter has yet to be resolved.
The Halki Seminary, owned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was established in 1844, but the Turkish Government forcibly closed the theological institution in 1971. CBS correspondent Bob Simon revealed this situation to the world during an exclusive interview with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on 60 Minutes, which aired in late December 2009.
The Commission, also know as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The commission's letter to the President can be read below:
April 6, 2010
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
A year ago today, in your address before the Turkish Grand National Assembly, you called for the reopening of the Halki Seminary. We appreciate your forthright appeals to Turkish authorities, including Prime Minister Erdogan, to resolve this longstanding matter. Regrettably, the passage of a year has not led to any steps toward resolution of this important issue. From your meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, last November you can appreciate the significance of the continued closure of this unique institution inside of Turkey and beyond.
Notwithstanding Turkey's commitments as a participating State of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, successive governments have refused to allow the Patriarch to make full use of the Patriarchal School of Theology at Halki since its forced closure in 1971. The continued denial of requests for the reopening of the seminary stands in clear violation of the 1989 OSCE Vienna Concluding Document which affirms the right of religious communities to provide "training of religious personnel in appropriate institutions." Hopes were raised last August that movement might be forthcoming following Prime Minister Erdogan's historic meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch.
We urge you to use the upcoming visit by the Prime Minister Erdogan to reiterate the importance the United States attaches to the reopening of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Theological School of Halki without condition or further delay.
Benjamin L. Cardin, U.S.S.
Alcee L. Hastings, M.C.
Sam Brownback, U.S.S.
Ranking Minority Member
Christopher H. Smith, M.C.
Ranking Minority Member
Joseph R. Pitts, M.C.
Edward J. Markey, M.C.