ASIA/TURKEY - Discontent and "discomfort" for the new regulations of the Foundations. The Armenian Patriarch appeals to Erdogan

Saturday, 27 August 2022 middle east   oriental churches   local churches   religious minorities  

Istanbul (Agenzia Fides) - In a letter addressed directly to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople Sahak II Masalyan expresses the "discomfort" and growing dissatisfaction among Armenians in Turkey following the publication of the new electoral regulations for Foundations linked to non-Muslim faith communities and their governing bodies need to be renewed. This unique initiative aims to alert Turkey's highest civil authority to the possibility that the growing unease among Turkey's Armenian communities could lead to an outright boycott of the electoral procedures used to allocate managerial and administrative posts within each individual Foundation. In his letter - according to local media, most notably the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper "Agos" - Patriarch Sahak proposes to provide all foundations with clear guidelines setting out the criteria for submitting electoral lists on a regional basis in accordance with the approved regulations be unequivocally repeated.
The text of the new rules for the election of the governing bodies of the foundations was published in Turkey's Official Gazette on Saturday 18 June. The publication of the new regulations was intended to end a long period of deadlock and legislative uncertainty that in recent years has hampered and partially prevented the normal fulfillment of the functions of these bodies for the benefit of non-Muslim communities in Turkey. Right at the first reading of the new regulations, representatives of the local religious communities of the minorities criticized the new provisions. In particular, the new territorial subdivision of the constituencies for the elections for the renewal of the boards of each foundation and the fact that the activities of the foundations that manage hospitals and other health facilities are subject to the control of the Ministry of Health have been criticized on a number of occasions.

The system of "foundations" is the legal instrument through which Turkish institutions regulate their relations with non-Muslim religious communities. Currently, 167 foundations associated with the Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Jewish, Syrian, Chaldean, Bulgarian, Georgian and Maronite communities in Turkey, commonly referred to as "minorities", report to the Foundation's Board of Directors.
In Turkey, the management of minority foundations is closely linked to the life of the local Christian and Jewish communities. These bodies are in fact charged with the management of places of worship (churches and synagogues), real estate and public facilities - such as cultural centers and hospitals - of the various non-Muslim communities.
The process of drafting new regulations, particularly for elections, has resumed in recent years after a long period of stalemate (see Fides, 27/1/2022). The previous election regulations for the top management of the foundations were suspended in 2013 after the government committed to introducing new procedures and justified the measure mainly with the intention of wanting to make the management of the properties entrusted to these institutions more functional and transparent.
The legal status of the foundations still dates back to the Peace Treaty of Lausanne signed in 1923 by Turkey and the Entente Powers (British Empire, France and Russian Empire) that emerged victorious from the First World War.
Sahak II's letter to Erdogan also gains significance because the Patriarch always uses a cordial and respectful tone towards the President and the Turkish authorities. At the beginning of 2020, just a few weeks after his election as patriarch
(see Fides, 3/1/2020), Patriarch Masalyan told the Turkish media: "All minorities in Turkey are of the same opinion: under the government of the AKP party we live in the most peaceful and happiest time since the founding of the Turkish Republic". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 27/8/2022)