eurel     Données sociologiques et juridiques sur la religion en Europe et au-delà


  • December 2006 : Alevis’ claim and the neutrality of the State of Turkey

Since December, religious debates in Turkey mainly revolve around the Alevis. They have become the subject of intense debates regarding the official running of religion as they are proponents of a heterodox Islam bearing syncretic elements.
The Directorate of Religious Affairs is exclusively run by the Sunnites and since the beginning of negotiations with the EU, some people advocate for the Alevis to be taken into account, given the necessary neutrality of the State.
Recently, two progressive results have been achieved in this regard. As far as mandatory religious courses are concerned, a large number of Alevis argue that they mainly promote the Sunnite culture and in this regard, they claim exception. For the first time, the Vice- President of the Association of the Alevis-Becktachis, Ali Kenanoglu obtained a legal right for his son not to attend these courses (see the Turkish daily newspapers of 26/11/2006). Since then, other requests have been made. The matter is still under examination at the ECHR.
In order to neutralise these complaints and abide by the European demands, the Turkish government decided to integrate Alevism in the syllabus of mandatory courses. In the same time, the Directorate of Religious Affairs decided to publish 17 fundamental books of Alevism. This decision angered some Alevis who remain distrustful of the State intervention. The Alevis are indeed divided in the question regarding relations with the State.

  • November 2006 : The papal visit in Turkey : an interest for all interlocutors

The visit of Pope Bernard XVI in Turkey was given a lot of publicity. Between 28th November 2006 and 1st December 2006, he visited Istanbul, Ankara and Ephesus.
According to many observers, this visit was a success for the Vatican. Unlike his predecessor, Pope Bernard XVI, indeed shows a higher interest in ecumenism than in Muslims-Christians dialogue. Thus, the main purpose of the visit was to attempt reconciliation with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. In this sense, the visit was beneficial as Pope Bernard XVI and Bartholomew I held similar positions and celebrated the mass together.
It is evident that after the declaration of Ratisbon, the papal visit in Turkey took a different meaning. Also in this case, the Pope’s attitude of reconciliation which went as far as praying in the Mosque of Sultan Ahmed, and the reception by the Turkish Authorities (the Prime Minister and the Minister of Religious Affairs) improved the image of the Pope in the Muslim world.
Finally, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate also gained from the visit. This shows that it has both a spiritual role in the Christian world and a political role at the international level to play. Even though the Turkish authorities would like to confine it to a status of a local Church, its responsibilities go far beyond this level.

D 29 décembre 2006    ASamim Akgönül

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