As the U.S. debates the opening of mosques (See my posting of yesterday Four mosque battles brew across US), I have to wonder if there is lesson for us in this story from Turkey.
Strengthen minority religious rights benefits all citizens, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week in defending his government's decision to allow Orthodox Christians to use for the first time in 80 years a 1,600-year-old monastery on Turkey's Black Sea coast.
At least 1,500 pilgrims, many from Greece and Russia, traveled to the monastery of Sumela Aug. 15 for services led by Patriarch Bartholomew I.
"We lose nothing if 500 or 2,000 people meet to hold a service together," Erdogan said during a press conference Aug 16. "Our country will gain more if it allows greater religious freedom. Turkey itself is seeking permission for a mosque in Athens, and this process could be speeded up if the situation improves here."
Now, Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoglu says that the government is considering reopening for worship the historic St. Paul Church in Tarsus, which currently serves as a museum.