Orthodox Christianity in Turkey

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Eastern Orthodoxy is a today a tiny minority in Turkey. Although it was once the predominant religion in the region that comprises today Turkey, as part of the Byzantine heritage, today it is comprising far less than one tenth of one percent of the entire population. The provinces of Istanbul and Hatay, which includes Antakya, are the main centres of Christianity in Turkey, with comparatively dense Christian populations, though they are very small minorities. The traditional variant of Orthodox Christianity present in Turkey is the Eastern Orthodox branch, focused mainly in the Greek Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox population of Turkey was substantially reduced as a result of the Greek genocide preceding and during World War I. Additionally, the vast majority of Greek Orthodox Christians were forced to leave the territory of Turkey in a population swap following the Treaty of Lausanne. Included among that transfer were many Turkish speaking Christians, who were nonetheless sent to Greece. Although the Greek Orthodox populations of Istanbul and some Turkish Aegean Islands were officially protected under the treaty, discrimination and harsh treatment, culminating in the Istanbul Pogrom led to further emigration. Many Greek Orthodox people living in Istanbul and the Islands were at various times arbitrarily stripped of their Turkish citizenship. Finally, a 1971 law significantly limiting the operation of private universities led to the closure of the Halki Seminary, the main theological school of the Orthodox community. Despite a 40 year campaign to reopen the school and periodic discussion of the matter by Turkish politicians, it remains closed.

Indeed, İzmir (formerly Grecian Smyrna) used to have a Greek Orthodox majority up until the 20th century, but the Christian population in the area today is now insignificant. Despite this decline, however, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, the Greek Orthodox leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church has its seat in Istanbul, and an Autocephalous Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate exists in Istanbul as well, though the later is not recognized by other Orthodox communities worldwide and has only a tiny number of adherents. Furthermore, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch is based in Damascus, Syria. This is probably due to the history Christianity has in the region, as Constantinople used to be the religious centre of Eastern Orthodox during the Middle Ages, and the famous Apostle Paul of Tarsus was from Turkey and performed his first of three missions trips recorded in Acts exclusively in that area.

A significant number of Antiochian Greeks who members of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Turkey live in Istanbul. They are concentrated in İskenderun, Samandağ, and Altınözü in Hatay. In 1995, their total population was estimated at 10,000.[1] While the Greek Orthodox community of Istanbul numbered 67,550 persons in 1955.[2] However, after the Istanbul Pogrom orchestrated by Turkish authorities against the Greek community in that year, their number was dramatically reduced to only 48,000.[3] Today, the Greek community numbers about 2,000 people.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Greeks of Turkey, 1992-1995 Fact-sheet by Marios D. Dikaiakos
  2. ^ http://www.demography-lab.prd.uth.gr/DDAoG/article/cont/ergasies/tsilenis.htm
  3. ^ Karimova Nigar, Deverell Edward. "Minorities in Turkey" (PDF). The Swedish Institute of International Affairs. p. 7 
  4. ^ Gilson, George. "Destroying a minority: Turkey's attack on the Greeks", book review of (Vryonis 2005), Athens News, 24 June 2005.

See also[edit]