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Struggle to Free the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Not Only Aghia Sophia

Psalti Boy

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Struggle to Free the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Not Only Aghia Sophia
Date: Monday, July 10 @ 22:06:20 EDT
Topic: Commentaries

Chicago.- By Andrew A. Athens

As an Archon of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America since 1974, Chairman of the Archdiocesan Council for more than 20 years, Founder and National Chairman of UHAC National and President of the World Council of Hellenes (SAE) for the past eleven years, I am writing in response to your recent article concerning an international campaign to “Free Aghia Sophia” that is being launched by Mr. Chris Spyrou. I agree with the statement made by Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Archons in a recent letter that “this campaign is misguided and lamentable.”

The political and more importantly, the human ramifications of this campaign are monumental. On the surface one may think that this is a noble cause and in some way, it is. We all want to “free” Aghia Sophia and restore its glory. The historical implications to the roots of Orthodoxy, the Mother Church of all churches, are great. No one will argue how important it would be Orthodoxy to have Aghia Sophia be once again a functioning Orthodox Church. In our hearts it is our Mother Church and always shall be. Yet, the reality is that the very survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the See of Constantinople is at stake. Along with Aghia Sophia, the Ecumenical Patriarchate needs to be free.
The vast majority of people do not realize how the Turkish Government has laid siege to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, its land, its institutions and most notably to His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew. First of all, Turkey refuses to recognize the Patriarch as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Orthodoxy, the first among equals of the Orthodox jurisdictions in the world. Turkey demands that the Patriarch be a Turkish citizen. He also runs the serious risk that he will be denied entry back into Turkey, every time he travels to visit the faithful.

Our clergy have faced persecution from members of the Turkish State. They must wear suits and ties every time they leave the Patriarchate, even for a simple errand. Every three months, the clergy must leave Turkey and re-enter with a temporary visa. Entry can be denied at anytime. If this were the case for the Vatican in Rome, Italy, would not there be an outcry from Catholics around the world? Where are we the Orthodox in supporting the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

Secondly, the Turkish Government has confiscated properties of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. There are laws being made by local Turkish authorities just for that purpose. The historic theological seminary of Halki remains close. Thirdly, the Hellenic community, once a flourishing and thriving community, has been reduced to less than 3,000 people. Every day they live in fear. Their human and religious rights violated.

Their property and their livelihood are being threatened. As Dr. Limberakis writes, “the litany of aggressive persecutions is vast and ghastly.”

The campaign we as Orthodox Christians need to launch is to “free” our Ecumenical Patriarchate and our Patriarch from the tyranny that they are subjected to every day by the Turkish Government. The human rights violations committed against the Ecumenical Patriarchate and our Greek Orthodox citizens of Turkey are the “wrongs” Turkey has to right before gaining entry into the European Union. This does not mean that we forsake our Holy Mother Church of Aghia Sophia.

For more than 30 years, UHAC National, along with the Archons of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes based in Washington, D.C., have joined together to “free” the Ecumenical Patriarchate, protect the human and religious rights of all Orthodox Christians in Turkey and restore the property and institutions to their rightul owners.

What can we do?

1. Write our local Congressman, the President of the United States, the Human Rights Commission of the European Union and the United National Human Rights Commission about the atrocities being committed against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Patriarch and the Hellenes living in Turkey.

2. Support UHAC National, the Coordinated Effort and the Order of Saint Andrew with donations, giving these organizations the means to take Legal actions and seek government intervention.

3. Spread the word. Many of us live in darkness when it comes to the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Let people know that joining together with existing efforts can make a difference. We need a united effort behind the existing groups, not another splinter group that will dilute our cause.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople was the first of the five great Sees of Orthodoxy. It is our sacred duty as Orthodox Christians to protect and preserve the first seat of Orthodoxy.

*** Andrew A. Athens
Maestor, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
National Chairman, UHAC National
President, World Council of Hellenes

This article comes from Greek News
http://www.greeknewsonline.com

The URL for this story is:
http://www.greeknewsonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=5200​
 

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Maybe it is just the hypocritical nature of Islamic governments, but I find it ironic how a small religious minority can be so persecuted while hordes of tourists are allowed virtually free reign.  Anyone here been to Turkey and know what it is like for tourists there?  I've heard German is a good second language to speak in Turkey due to the large number of German tourists (and returning turkish ex-pats from Germany).
 

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I was there last summer. Spent time in Istanbul and Kusadasi(Ephesus). Problems only arose when dealing with vendors trying to sell you bum merchandise. Then again, I'm not a woman. The men there are like wild dogs when it comes to dealing with western women. Besides that, I had a pretty decent time. People seemed to take an interest in my friend and I...some local kids showed us how to get to the Phanar once we were in the general area. Also, on the bus to Kusadasi, I met a young German/Turk who started up a conversation(thank God since he was the only other person who spoke english on the bus and I wasn't sure if I was heading in the right direction)...when the bus made periodic stops our conversation brought the attention of half of the bus's passengers as they all asked him where I was from and what we were discussing. Then I had to entertain about a dozen questions about American life in general. The bus driver ended up rubbing my head and calling me his American friend. ha.

 

ozgeorge

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Psalti Boy said:
It is our sacred duty as Orthodox Christians to protect and preserve the first seat of Orthodoxy.
Amen! It is not our duty as Orthodox Christians to hope for a "power vacuum" by wishing for the complete destruction of Constantinople so that some other Synod can become the "Third Rome".

Elisha said:
Anyone here been to Turkey and know what it is like for tourists there?  I've heard German is a good second language to speak in Turkey due to the large number of German tourists (and returning turkish ex-pats from Germany).
In 2000, I crossed the border by bus from Northern Greece. The bus was stopped and strip searched for two hours while we stood in the burning sun, and all our passports were collected into a cardboard box by the Turkish Military. The only way you got your passport back was to pay an "administrative fee" (bribe). When they saw that I carried an Australian passport, they quickly handed mine back to me and offered me a bottle of water which I refused unless they gave the same to my fellow passengers- which they did.
 

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You're a better man than I, ozgeorge. Our cruise ship docked in "Izmir" - I refused to leave the ship's bar or step foot in "Turkey". Silly, I guess.
 

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Αριστοκλής said:
You're a better man than I, ozgeorge. Our cruise ship docked in "Izmir" - I refused to leave the ship's bar or step foot in "Turkey". Silly, I guess.
Are you so nationalist that, even were the entire Turkish people to convert to the Christian faith, you would still be discontented and calling for a return of "stolen Greek lands" and hating the entire country?

As I mentioned in an earlier post: the sole problem with Turkey is that its population hasn't accepted the Gospel. It's ridiculous to hold the people living there today accountable for the settlement of their ancestors a thousand years ago.
 

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CRCulver said:
Are you so nationalist that, even were the entire Turkish people to convert to the Christian faith, you would still be discontented and calling for a return of "stolen Greek lands" and hating the entire country?

As I mentioned in an earlier post: the sole problem with Turkey is that its population hasn't accepted the Gospel. It's ridiculous to hold the people living there today accountable for the settlement of their ancestors a thousand years ago.
Outrageously presumptuous of you, actually. Perhaps I merely protest the seizure of my family lands in Trebizond (Trapezounta) and the never-paid-for confiscation of our ancestral (for centuries) home in Constantinople - much more mundane, selfish motivations than 'nationalism', protesting genocide (and its denial by the T's) and persecution of the Church. Frankly your insights are rather shallow, simplistic.
 

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Αριστοκλής said:
...protesting genocide (and its denial by the T's)...
This part especially really pisses me off...how the Turk's can be so audacious about this and be the world's biggest hypocrites.  Then again, I think this is particular to most Islamic countries.
 

CRCulver

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Αριστοκλής said:
Perhaps I merely protest the seizure of my family lands in Trebizond (Trapezounta) and the never-paid-for confiscation of our ancestral (for centuries) home in Constantinople - much more mundane, selfish motivations than 'nationalism', protesting genocide (and its denial by the T's) and persecution of the Church. Frankly your insights are rather shallow, simplistic.
And how is the average Turk alive today responsible for confiscating your lands?

And as I said, the persecution of the Church is a valid reason to be unhappy about Turkey. But blaming people for what their ancestors did is ridiculous.

Do you think that the U.S. government should pay reparations to descendents of slaves? The absurdity of that has already been demonstrated. Most the arguments hold also for the question of Greek possessions in Turkey.
 

Psalti Boy

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CRCulver said:
Do you think that the U.S. government should pay reparations to descendents of slaves? .
No!!  But I do think that the US Government should pay reparations to the Native American Indians.
 

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CRCulver said:
And how is the average Turk alive today responsible for confiscating your lands?

And as I said, the persecution of the Church is a valid reason to be unhappy about Turkey. But blaming people for what their ancestors did is ridiculous.

Do you think that the U.S. government should pay reparations to descendants of slaves? The absurdity of that has already been demonstrated. Most the arguments hold also for the question of Greek possessions in Turkey.
Dear friend CRCulver the occupation of the northern part of the republic of Cyprus is not a history the continuous confiscations of the EP constitutions is not a history the continuous efforts to suicide his Holiness EP is not a history the denying of the genocide that committed against the Christian populations of minor Asia is not a history the illegal  confiscations of the propierties of the once flourishing Greek orthodox comunity in Constantinople is not a history the stabbed Roman Catholic Priest this Month is not a history  that their ancestors committed.TY :)
 

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nikolaos said:
Dear friend CRCulver the occupation of the northern part of the republic of Cyprus is not a history the continuous confiscations of the EP constitutions is not a history the continuous efforts to suicide his Holiness EP is not a history the denying of the genocide that committed against the Christian populations of minor Asia is not a history the illegal  confiscations of the propierties of the once flourishing Greek orthodox comunity in Constantinople is not a history the stabbed Roman Catholic Priest this Month is not a history  that their ancestors committed.TY :)
Yes, those are not history. Did you not notice the previous two times when I said the current persecution of the Church is a real problem?

However, the seizure of most Greek lands, which Aristokles said above is one of his reasons for despising Turkey, is already history.
 

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This is a minor point but Kusadasi (and we have family friends there - Turks who used to be Gastarbeiter in Germany) is not Ephesus. It's not terribly far from Ephesus but the actual Turkish town that corresponds to Ephesus (and where you'll find the museum housing Ephesian antiquities and the ruins of St. John's Basilica) is called Selcuk. I've been to Ephesus and visited St. John's basilica (so far as I know the only place asociated with an Apostle that I've ever been) and it was a wonderful experience. I strongly dislike the Turkish governement and can second the wish to free the EP, but I can't hold this against the average Turk, many of whom are very nice people. It would be a shame for people to allow their justifiable anger at the way Greeks and other Christians have been treated in Turkey to prevent them from visiting places important to our faith in that country. It would be rather like refusing to visit places in the Holy Land solely because of the history we have with the Arab muslims who make up the majority in (and rule) parts of it. That would be very sad.

James
 

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CRCulver said:
However, the seizure of most Greek lands, which Aristokles said above is one of his reasons for despising Turkey, is already history.
How so very naive. The Church still owns vast holdings throughout Anatolia and most particularly in Constantinople (severely reduced in the 20th Century by the Turkish Republic - today's Turkey.) They are STILL engaged in confiscation of Christian property -TODAY. Islamic "extremists" are merely tools being used to complete the Islamification of the country.

To read "hatred" in my boycotting a visit to Smyrna is in your imagination solely.

I wonder if the Turks were still ruling Romania, in the same manner, if you would feel the same?

 

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CRCulver said:
However, the seizure of most Greek lands, which Aristokles said above is one of his reasons for despising Turkey, is already history.
::)
Why is it that everyone who affects being very opinionated on this issue obviously has no idea what they are talking about and say things which so easily destroy any credibility in their claims? Not only does Turkey continue to sieze Church property, the Turkish military is invading Greek airspace on an almost daily basis because Turkey does not recognise Greek airspace. I wonder how you'd feel about Iraqi or Iranian jet fighters flying over the US every day without permission to enter US airspace? I spent two weeks in Alexandroupolis last year, and the air-raid sirens sounded accross the city on nine of the 14 days I was there.
Have you ever travelled overseas? I've noticed that the people with the biggest opinions are the one's whose lives run in the smallest circles.
 

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ozgeorge said:
I wonder how you'd feel about Iraqi or Iranian jet fighters flying over the US every day without permission to enter US airspace?
They wouldn't make it that far because once they came close to breaching US airspace, they'd be warned and then shot down.

-Nick
 

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Why is it that everyone who affects being very opinionated on this issue obviously has no idea what they are talking about and say things which so easily destroy any credibility in their claims?
You and Demetri have both expressed this sentiment in this thread - that anyone who disagrees with your conclusions based on the same data is obviously uninformed.  What I haven't seen is anyone attempt to refute the essential point brought up - is the average Turkish citizen to be held responsible for the crimes of his government?

Also, I assume that you are donating your land to Aborigenes and moving back to Greece (if you aren't I'd be very interested to know why not). 

Have you ever travelled overseas? I've noticed that the people with the biggest opinions are the one's whose lives run in the smallest circles.
Before insulting others, you may consider checking their profiles for basic information first.  According to his profile CRCulver has spent considerable amounts of time outside of the United States. 

Eitherway I think we can all pray that the day will soon come when Orthodox Christianity may be freely practiced in Turkey. 
 

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Νεκτάριος said:
Also, I assume that you are donating your land to Aborigenes and moving back to Greece (if you aren't I'd be very interested to know why not). ÂÂ
Dear friend  Νεκτάριος as far as i know the current and previous Australian and US governments have expressed their sympathy to their natives andÂÂ acknowledgeÂÂ the mistakes that they commited in their past.But when we come to turkey this is not the caseÂÂ :-\
 

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Dear friend  Νεκτάριος as far as i know the current and previous Australian and US governments have expressed their sympathy to their natives and  acknowledge  the mistakes that they commited in their past.But when we come to turkey this is not the case
Even though my government has expressed sympathy for its sins committed, little has been done to give back land to the American Indians.  So I'm not sure it is that much better to say, "Sorry we stole from you and killed many of your ancesters, but we're keeping the land anyway" opposed to the Turkish complete denial of genocide.  But otherwise I do agree with you, the modern Turkish government has some serious problems.  I'm not convinced that is the fault of the average Turk, though.   
 

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Until fairly recently it was illegal for Kurds to speak their native language in Turkey...just so us Christians don't feel so singled out.  ;)
 

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Nektarios, I don't think Orthodox Christianity could ever truly be practised freely in "Turkey" because orthodoxy is very strongly attached to Hellenism or Armenian/Syriac culture over there. To become orthodox, in effect, for them, would be to become hellenic/armenian etc and deny their own "history"--which I'm still trying to figure out what exactly that it. Hmm, so these people move in around the 15th century, claim other people's land, culture, and history, and try so hard to be rid of the original people--just like North Americans, only maybe 150-200 years older...

Asia Minor as Greek land is not history. A small booklet I have about Asia Minor history estimates that there were 700,000 Greek Orthodox in Cappadocia alone, AFTER the population exchanges in the 20th century.  My grandpa was only a little boy when this happened. Although he was not directly involved in THIS act of terroristic genocide, he was still living--it wasn't like 900 years ago. My grandparents have lived there however as well as Alexandria, and in both instances, they've experienced some sort of persecution.
 

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Αριστοκλής said:
To read "hatred" in my boycotting a visit to Smyrna is in your imagination solely.

I wonder if the Turks were still ruling Romania, in the same manner, if you would feel the same?
I never mentioned hatred. I think you're confusing me with someone else. All I said was that it would be a shame to refuse to visit paces of pilgrimage based solely on a justifiable anger with those who rule the area. My attitude on this would still be the same if Romania was currently a suzerain state of Turkey (they were never ruled directly as Asia Minor is, though, so the situations are not directly comparable). I agree totally with everyone who opposes Turkey here and have never suggested otherwise. I just make a distinction between the political entity and the people who live within its borders.

James
 

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jmbejdl said:
I never mentioned hatred. I think you're confusing me with someone else. All I said was that it would be a shame to refuse to visit paces of pilgrimage based solely on a justifiable anger with those who rule the area. My attitude on this would still be the same if Romania was currently a suzerain state of Turkey (they were never ruled directly as Asia Minor is, though, so the situations are not directly comparable). I agree totally with everyone who opposes Turkey here and have never suggested otherwise. I just make a distinction between the political entity and the people who live within its borders.

James
Wasn't addressing you; you're not the only Romanian in this thread. Sorry
 

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Νεκτάριος said:
Before insulting others, you may consider checking their profiles for basic information first.  According to his profile CRCulver has spent considerable amounts of time outside of the United States. 
According to his profile, you are assuming his got off the ship or was even on one to start with.  ;) He, like others, is not old enough to have spent considerable time anywhere.
As far as 'the' essential point - I never addressed the issue in the first place. I don't know any "average" Turkic Turkish people - only ones I like and those I don't. How many do you know?
 

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Αριστοκλής said:
Wasn't addressing you; you're not the only Romanian in this thread. Sorry
I'm not? I didn't think that there were any other Romanian Orthodox commenting on this thread and so put two and two together and thought your comments were aimed at my post. If my two and two made three then I apologise. Who else in this thread is Romanian Orthodox? Most of those commenting appear to be Greek.

James
 

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jmbejdl said:
I'm not? I didn't think that there were any other Romanian Orthodox commenting on this thread and so put two and two together and thought your comments were aimed at my post. If my two and two made three then I apologise. Who else in this thread is Romanian Orthodox? Most of those commenting appear to be Greek.
He's referring to me. I live most of the year in Cluj.
 

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Νεκτάριος said:
Also, I assume that you are donating your land to Aborigenes and moving back to Greece (if you aren't I'd be very interested to know why not). 
Big mistake nektarios! Firstly, you misspelled "Aborigine", and secondly, I have in fact handed privately owned land back to the Aboriginal People of the Blue Mountains after it was discovered that a large rockface on one of my properties had ancient aboriginal markings on it. :D
 

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I have in fact handed privately owned land back to the Aboriginal People of the Blue Mountains after it was discovered that a large rockface on one of my properties had ancient aboriginal markings on it
But you haven't handed it all back. You still live on their land. You shouldn't expect anything more out of the Turkish government.ÂÂ

Why are you and Demetri allowed to partake in population movements yet others aren't? 
 

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Νεκτάριος said:
But you haven't handed it all back.  You still live on their land. 
Lame... very lame......


Νεκτάριος said:
You shouldn't expect anything more out of the Turkish government. 
"Anything more" on top of what? A bottle of water after making me stand in the sun for two hours?
 

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Νεκτάριος said:
Why are you and Demetri allowed to partake in population movements yet others aren't? 
By "population movements", do you mean like the "population exchange" where my grandparents were expelled from Pontos by the Turks after their property was siezed? Well I guess I am allowed to take part in such "population movements" by virtue of the fact that I am Greek, and part of the Chosen People whom God tests like gold in the fire.
 

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Yours too, ozgeorge?

Our ancestral church outside Trapezounta is now a squalid fuel depot, defaced.
 

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Blessed be our God! That explains the Panagia Soumela in your avatar!

My grandparents were from Smyrna and they fled to Limnos where my Mother was born. My mother's elder brother and sister were born in Smyrna, and my aunt is still alive. On her iconostasis she has a photograph taken by someone on the boat they were fleeing in which shows Smyrna completely engulfed in flames.

Courage.....Gold in the fire!
 

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By "population movements", do you mean like the "population exchange" where my grandparents were expelled from Pontos by the Turks after their property was siezed?
I'm pointing out that some people here seem to be arguing against the whole idea of demographic changes and that populations can and do move.  They happen.  I'm merely pointing out that you have taken part in such moves and shifts yourself.  I.e if you, Demetri, Timos and whoever else wish to condemn the move of Turkic people into Asia Minor, you also ought to condemn the move of Europeans into Australia and North America.  ÂÂ

And not surprisingly whenever the population exchange is mentioned, nobody seems to remember that many Muslims were expelled from Greece, loosing their property and ancestral places of worship.  Neither is it mentioned about the Slavs who lost property, churches and life as a result of the Balkan Wars (some of whose ancestors had possed that land for at least a thousand years).  In your tirades about Turks, simply remember that he who is without sin ought to cast the first stone. ÂÂ

As for your border experience, I've also heard of very similar events from those crossing from the Republic of Macedonia into Greece.  Ultimately what is a shame is that human beings won't treat eachother as humans and instead themselves act worse than animals.  That is why I pray for the eventual freedom of movement and religion in Turkey; blaming the typical Turkish citizen for the crimes of his government isn't going to achieve that any more quickly.    ÂÂ
 

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Νεκτάριος said:
And not surprisingly whenever the population exchange is mentioned, nobody seems to remember that many Muslims were expelled from Greece, loosing their property and ancestral places of worship.
That could be because it didn't happen. "Population Exchange" is a Turkish term for the event, but infact, there was no "exchange". I know you've been to Greece, because I visited Prodromos last year and he told me you had also visited him- did you notice how there are hardly any modern buildings in Greece older than a eighty years old? Do you know why? It was because in 1922 after the "Population Exchange" the population of Greece more than doubled literally overnight, and houses and apartment buildings had to be quickly torn down and rebuilt in a way to accomodate more than twice the population. The population of a country does not double if they expell people. Could you please provide evidence for your claim that Greece expelled anyone in the "Population Exchange"?
 

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C'mon guys. Just admit that Nektarios is right about this. This is what happens when one people/culture takes over another's territory. It's part of the ebb and flow of humankind throughout history.

The EP needs to get out of Turkey. Course, he does not want to leave because then he could not hide behind this veil of persecution. Similar to what the Arab states do by using the "plight" of the Palestinians to shield their corruption.
 

ozgeorge

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Νεκτάριος said:
As for your border experience, I've also heard of very similar events from those crossing from the Republic of Macedonia into Greece. 
"I've heard"....well there's credible evidence.......
The most "interesting" and "colourful" posters all seem to begin their posts with "I've heard". The one's I really love are those that begin with "I've read somewhere", but somehow they just can't find where it was that they "read" it so that one can read it for themselves.....
 

Fr. George

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Many of the citizens I encountered in the city were Helleno-philes, which was refreshing.  There are many, though, who support the government's targeting of the Rum, and a smaller number who throw grenades and protest.  To some degree, the citizenry of a nation is responsible for the actions of their government, especially in a secularist nation like Turkey.  They all know that the Armenians, Rum, and Kurds get raw treatment; as long as it isn't happening to them, they're okay with it.

What angers me in all this is that Turkey is doing this to its own citizens; these Greek-speaking peoples are born in Turkey, and have been born in Turkey for centuries.  Part of the resentment on the part of the government is the fact that these people refuse to intermarry and intermingle with the Turkic peoples; but all of them speak Turkish, pay their taxes, support the local economies, etc.  So what we see in Turkey is state-sponsored persecution of its own citizens, which is more like what was happening in the South in the early 20th-century than what existed pre-Civil War (when it was debatable whether slaves were even citizens).

The confiscation of property is still a real issue.  Most of  the Roman families there cannot leave their homes for extended periods of time, nor can any of the Churches have a single Sunday without Liturgy.  If either of these conditions happens, the property will be taken and immediately redistributed.  With over 10 million people in the city (I've heard so many versions of the number I won't give anything more exact) the government takes every opportunity to house more of its citizens in less space.

The Rum in Turkey do as much as they can to live the Gospel without getting killed; one could argue that they should be willing to openly preach the gospel and receive the martyrdom that will follow.  But they're doing what they can.

What's funny is that I didn't meet a single "nationalist" there - no one proclaiming the "Great Idea" or supporting the overthrow of the government.  Instead, all the people want is the government to treat them with the dignity befitting citizens, and to allow them to practice their faith unfettered.

Really, the families that have survived in Constantinople are quite a bunch; they are Turkish citizens, but not blood; they speak Greek, but don't support nationalist Greece; they are first and foremost Romans - Orthodox peoples leftover from the Empire, who worship their Lord and speak their language (and Turkish... you know, to survive).
 
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