Turkey’s non-Muslim foundations to give ‘iftar’

ANKARA – Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey’s 161 religious community foundations will organize Wednesday a traditional fast-breaking dinner, or iftar, in Istanbul that will be attended by government officials as well as leading representatives of the non-Muslim community.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, who will represent the government at the dinner at the Esma Sultan Palace in Istanbul, is also scheduled to deliver a speech. The iftar will be hosted by Laki Vingas, a member of the Religious Community Foundations’ Assembly. Officials told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review the dinner would be a kind of ‘feast of love’ to promote inter-faith dialogue.

The Religious Community Foundations’ Assembly has been hosting fast-breaking dinners for two years and wants to establish a tradition of the event. “We want it to be a feast of love. The objective is not to discuss the problems facing Turkey’s [different] religious communities but to promote dialogue,” said an assembly official to the Daily News, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew, Armenian Orthodox Patriarch Aram Ateshian, Chief Rabbi Isak Haleva, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Yusuf Sağ and Syriac Orthodox community leader Yusuf Çetin will all attend the dinner.

Although officials have dismissed any talk of problems facing the religious communities in Turkey, the event will still provide an opportunity to exchange views between government officials and Turkey’s non-Muslim community.

According to Turkish law, religious communities cannot register as legally defined entities, but are instead forced to operate indirectly through foundations or associations. Non-Muslim communities, however, face major problems due to the absence of such a legal identity. There are also restrictions on the training of clergy. Turkey is facing pressure from the European Union to improve the rights of its religious minorities