07/05/2011, 00.00
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German Vice-Chancellor calls on Ankara to reopen the Halki Theological School

by NAT da Polis
Guido Westerwelle’s visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate school, closed for 40 years, is seen as a request to the Turkish government to move from words to deeds, making concrete its proclamations on human rights and religious freedom.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The reopening of the Halki Theological School (pictured) does not need constitutional sophistry, but the political will of the Turkish government. The statement comes from the German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who made a weekend visit to the theological school of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is the most politically important visit to take place since the institution was closed by the state in 1971, forty years ago.

Already in the recent past, the same authoritative exponent of the German Government had expressed his willingness to make a visit to the school and it was realized a month after the elections held in Turkey, which saw the Erdogan’s landslide victory, and on the eve of the presentation of new government. The elections were strongly backed by Erdogan with an aim to reform the Turkish Constitution along the lines of the EU democratic model. And therefore also grant non-Muslim minorities the rights that were previously limited by the old establishment

In short a visit of some significance because, as pointed out by the Taraf newspaper, Erdogan, with nearly 50% of the vote, mainly from the “antiergenekon people " (Ergenekon is considered the Turkish Gladio), as the same paper defined it, has been given an explicit mandate to clean the Turkish deep state mechanisms of the old establishment, which were contrary to civil democratic tolerance and as a result, freedom of expression of non-Muslim minorities.

The same statements made by Westerwelle - received by Metropolitan Apostolos dean of the School and the Rev. Dositheos head of the Ecumenical Patriarchate office for foreign relations - should be considered in this vision, Istanbul commented. "My visit to the theological school of Halki - Wsterwelle said- is very important, because this place is part of that civilization which is an integral part of European civilization. I hope that my presence here - he continued – will give courage and hope and I also want to express my desire to see the Halki School reopened. And I hope that soon this wonderful library filled with priceless treasures, will once more be at service of students".

"There is no need- said the vice-chancellor – for the subtle play of constitutional engineering, to have the Halki school re-opened. All that is needed is a sincere will and magnanimous flexibility".

His statements on the eve of the formation of the new Turkish government has been interpreted in diplomatic circles as a sign that now there is the need to pass to concrete actions.

Besides the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, on the eve of parliamentary elections on June 12, had stressed in an interview with the English-speaking Turkish magazine, Policy Quarterly, that actually the situation of minorities in the last five years is much improved, but now it is time for Turkey to turn the corner, for the concession of full rights to its non-Muslims citizens.

And just yesterday the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew celebrated, along with his classmates, 50 years since he was awarded his license at the Theological School of Halki, declaring: "Let us pray that the injustice perpetrated against the civilized world is eliminated."

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