Turkey: Hopes for religious equality under new constitution

Christians in Turkey are hoping that the country’s new constitution will guarantee the same rights for them as for Muslims.

A commission was recently set up by the Turkish parliament and tasked with writing up the country’s sixth constitution. A first draft is expected by June.

Christians were invited this week by the commission to present their views on the new constitution, alongside representatives of other minority groups.

“We hope that the new constitution will highlight freedom,” Patriarch Yusuf Sag, leader of the Syrian Catholic Church in Turkey, told Fides news agency.

“We want a constitution that accepts and embraces all just like a mother does with her children.

“We have no expectations other than those of the Muslim Turks … we expect to have the same rights as Muslim Turk citizens.”

The Christian delegation also included Mgr Ruggero Franceschini, President of the Episcopal Conference of Turkey, and Mgr Georges Khazzoum, representing Armenian Catholics.

Mgr Franceschini said the meeting was “sincere and friendly” and allowed everyone to express their opinions.

He said the crucial issue for the country’s Catholics was legal recognition.
“We Catholics cannot even repair our churches or adequately manage our properties,” he said.

More meetings are due to be held with the commission on the issue of ownership of churches, schools and hospitals.

The Episcopal Conference of Turkey said in a note to Fides that there was “the possibility of reaching good agreements”.