Saturday, July 20, 2013

Does "Forgive your Enemies" go this far?

In Istanbul, Turkey, a huge historical Armenian building is being rented despite the ongoing trial.

The Sanasaryan Han in Istanbul’s Eminönü neighborhood, was won by Özgeylani Construction Company, despite the ongoing trial over the ownership of the building. The building is claimed by the Armenian Christians. Armenian Christians around the world claim that upwards of 1,500,000 of their people died in a "genocide" in 1915 when Turkish soldiers forced them out of the eastern most areas of the Ottoman Empire.

The Turkish government claims that the events happened during World War I, that the deaths were not a "genocide", and that "only" 315,000 Armenians died. Most recently, the Turkish government has begun handing back some of the 9,500 properties seized from Greek Orthodox and Armenian Orthodox Churches in 1974.

The issue I want to illustrate involves the ongoing struggle of being a member of the Kingdom of God, in which earthly loyalties and properties are temporary, and being a citizen of this world, in which human rights and justice are necessary and important. (This is one of the major themes of this blog.) This theme overlaps other situations: race relations, property rights, freedom to dress using religious symbols, freedom of expression, etc.

(From Hurriyet Daily News, July 20,) "The tender for renting the historical building, organized by the Directorate General of Foundations on July 18, was won by Özgeylani Construction Company, despite the ongoing trial over the ownership of the building.

"Turkey’s Armenian Patriarchate claims that the han, which was donated to the patriarchate in 1881 by a Russian-Armenian Mıgırdiç Sansaryan, belongs to them as they have the documents to prove the donation. The Directorate General of Foundations, on the other hand, claims that the building did not fall under the jurisdiction of a law on the return of properties to community foundations that took effect in 2011 as it had been owned by a person.

"Şahin Gezer of Turkey’s Armenian Patriarchate Real Estate Commission told the Hürriyet Daily News that they had hoped until the last minute that the tender would be halted. Gezer said they would continue their legal action. "The Sanasaryan Han had an autonomous status when compared to the other Armenian foundations, Gezer said, adding that this was due to the fact that other foundations had churches and schools, whereas the han had been donated to the patriarchate by a natural person.

"Gezer said that the rent of the han should be equally distributed between Armenian schools and public schools without any discrimination, while adding that this was as an offer to the Directorate General of Foundations “as we are equal citizens.” "Commenting on the resolution on foundations, which entered into force two years ago, Gezer said more than 400 properties were returned but major problems were being faced. “For example, the returned space is accepted as a green area or is closed for housing, so even if it is returned you cannot use it,” said Gezer.

I  quoted  at length because most people don't know the legal issues faced by Christians in Turkey. it illustrates the tensions we have as followers of Jesus Christ. When we are told to "forgive our enemies, to love our enemies and to pray for our enemies", does that mean we abdicate the claims of our earthly citizenship? The Mennonites, in large measure, did that historically. They moved from place to place based on the need to avoid bloodshed and now are found in Canada, USA, Mexico, Paraguay and other nations.

How should Armenian believers act and think when faced with the Turkish government's use of tiny details in law to avoid handing over such a massive building, worth many millions of dollars in a prime real estate location? Of course, the Armenian Patriarcate will launch a law suite and it may go all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. Turkey is the champion loser of cases brought to the ECHR, and alongside Russia, is the champion of cases brought against its government.

There are countless cases like this, every year, brought against Christians in the Muslim countries. Usually the Christians lose the fight in the courts. What do you think the issues are in the hearts of Christians when faced with injustice? Let me know what you think!

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