Turkish minorities: We want a constitution that embraces us all

On Monday, a Parliamentary commission heard representatives of Council of Catholic Bishops about new constitution / AL? ASLAN KILIÇ , ANKARA
A parliamentary commission has received the representatives of some minority groups, including Catholics and Romas, to hear their suggestions for the new constitution currently being drafted. The representatives said their biggest problem is a lack of acknowledgment.
With the parliamentary Constitutional Reconciliation Commission, which has been assigned the task of drafting the text of a new constitution for Turkey, hearing from various segments of Turkish society, representatives from Turkey’s Council of Catholic Bishops, the Ülkü Ocaklar? Education and Culture Foundation — Ülkü Ocaklar? is a youth organization of the far-right political front — the Human Rights Association (?HD) and the Roma Association were received by the commission on Monday so they could make suggestions regarding the new constitution.

Expressing his contentment after the meeting, Monsignor Ruggero Franceschini, the president of the Council of Catholic Bishops, said it was sincere and friendly. Franceschini said they talked about the biggest problems minorities in Turkey face: “All of us expressed our views as to how to resolve the problems of all religious groups. Our biggest problem is the issue of receiving acknowledgment. Other Catholic churches carry out their services with the help of associations; but we, Roman Catholics, cannot even repair our churches. We can’t properly administer our properties. I am an Italian, and I think that historical churches are the richness of all humanity, not only of the people belonging to that church.”

Syriac Catholic church leader Chor Episcopus Yusuf Sa? noted that the fact that they were invited by the commission to contribute to the new constitution’s formation process is proof of how pro-liberty the new constitution will be. He added: “We hope the new constitution will highlight freedoms. We want a constitution that accepts and embraces everyone like a mother. We don’t have expectations different from those of Muslim Turks. As Syriacs that have been living on this land for 4,500 years, we expect to receive the same rights as Muslim Turks.”

Speaking to Today’s Zaman, the legal advisor to the Ülkü Ocaklar? Education and Culture Foundation, Mehmet Parsak, has said the fact that every segment of society is being listened to proves the maturation of Turkish democracy. “We will follow the formation process. We want to see to what extent our suggestions will be reflected in the new draft of the constitution,” Parsak said.

Ahmet ?yimaya, the head of the parliamentary Justice Commission, has told Today’s Zaman that listening to NGOs with different views is a requirement of Mevlana’s philosophy, the principles of 13th-century Islamic scholar Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi, who was known for his ideas of universality. “The fact that today various NGOs in our land that are enjoying the freedom and independence that have been given to them are voicing their ideas about the new constitution indicates the high level our culture has reached,” ?yimaya said.