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      Archbishop Mutafian — Full of Turkish Mischief

Archbishop Mutafian — Full of Turkish Mischief   21/02/2005

Archbishop Mutafian - Full of Turkish Mischief

Ever since exterminating 1.5 million Armenians and depopulating historic Armenia, successive regimes in Turkey have been hard at work, in an obsessive determination, to wipe out all traces of Armenian heritage in our ancestral land.

However, since Ataturk's Europeanization drive, the traditional Turkish scimitar has been replaced by more sophisticated methods with the very same ultimate goal - to drive the original inhabitants of the land into oblivion.

Recognizing the role of the Armenian Church in preserving the Armenian culture and identity, the Turks have turned it into a prime target of destruction. Thousands of houses of worship have been reduced to ruins. Additionally, the Turks have resorted to every ruse, any kind of Byzantine law to emasculate the remaining Armenian community in Istanbul, especially decapitating its spiritual leadership.

Contrary to the Lausanne Treaty (1923) provisions, the Turkish government has shut down the Holy Cross Armenian Seminary, the only center where young generations of clergy could be trained. When Armenians resorted to other creative means to replenish the dwindling pool of clergymen by enrolling aspiring clergymen at the Jerusalem Seminary, the Turkish government acted swiftly to ban that route as well, accusing Armenians of training terrorists (sic!) in that seminary. One of those returning seminarians, Father Manuel Yergatian, ended up in jail with ludicrous accusations and he suffered most of his 14 years verdict in the Turkish dungeons.

While denying all venues to train young clergy, the Turkish government has devised another trap: thus the Turkish law prohibits anyone from being elected as the Armenian Patriarch who is not born in Turkey. These restrictions severely curtail the number of potential candidates, only to eliminate all the candidates in a matter of several years. Under these devilish Turkish schemes, clergymen of dubious reputation will ascend the patriarchal throne by default. The current patriarch, Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian, is the product of that default.

His predecessors, Archbishop Karekin Khachadourian, Archbishop Shnork Kalousdian, and even Archbishop Kazanjian, have served the Patriarchate with extreme prudence, cognizant of the limitations and restrictions imposed by the Turkish government. Thanks to their prudence, wisdom and inspiring personalities, the great traditions of the Istanbul Armenian community have been preserved, the creative impulse of the intellectual life has remained productive and the institutions have survived.

The emergence of Archbishop Mutafian has altered the scene dramatically. Traditionally united, the Istanbul Armenian community has been severely divided. He has bullied intellectuals, journalists and benefactors by his unorthodox behavior; however, thanks to the wisdom of the injured parties not to react, eccentric behavior of this young clergyman continues its damage.

Since Archbishop Mutafian was easily elected to the Patriarchal throne, with Turkish government crutches, he was intoxicated with his instant success and he used the patriarchal throne as a launching pad to try his luck as the supreme head of the Armenian Church - where he discovered that Turkish tentacles were not long enough to help him in his outlandish design. He was frustrated and he turned against the Holy See at Echmiadzin; he used every opportunity to demonstrate his disrespect and he broke away from the traditional hierarchical relations, which the former Patriarchs had established and cherished sacredly.All his predecessors had been coerced by the Turkish government to get involved politically to promote its dubious agenda to the detriment of the Armenian cause, but they had wisely shied away from engaging in any such endeavor. Yet Archbishop Mutafian gleefully engaged in that endeavor at the first advance of the Turkish authorities. He allowed himself to be used as a political tool when he took a tour of Europe last year to promote Turkey's admission into the European Union (EU), while the world Armenian political leadership was opposing the move vehemently.

Upon his return to Istanbul he believed that he had earned Brownie points with the Turkish government. When he approached the Turkish authorities with problems plaguing the Armenian community, he discovered that nothing had changed, and that the same authorities continued their discrimination policies. They continued usurping community assets and controlling the Armenian schools to eradicate any ethnic tradition left there.

As the Turkish heavy hand was relentlessly working to disrupt community life, instead of complaining to the International Court, or declaring a hunger strike at UN Headquarters to draw attention to the plight of the Armenian community, he dared to show up on Turkish TV to say what the Turks wanted to hear and what they wanted the world to hear - that the Armenian community had been living freely and peacefully and that no other Armenians from abroad had to meddle in their affairs.

When the EU representatives visited Turkey to contact the community leaders, Greeks, Kurds and Jews courageously cited their grievances, yet Archbishop Mutafian disappeared on a Greek Island.

During President's Bush's visit he spoke of humanitarian values and complained about Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, instead of complaining about Midnight Express style Turkish prisons.

As the world Armenian community struggles for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Archbishop Mutafian plays the old Turkish tune: that history has to be left to the historians, as if there were anything left to be said about the genocide.

Today Archbishop Mutafian is on his ultimate adventure: he has decided to sue the largest charitable Armenian organization in the Diaspora, under the pretext of reversing the AGBU Board's decision to close down the Melkonian Educational Institute in Cyprus. The AGBU has met all its obligations to the Patriarchate; therefore, Mutafian has no legal leg to stand on. He is obviously out for trouble.

Since Archbishop Mutafian's record demonstrates amply that all along he has been serving the Turkish government's political agenda, it is inconceivable that he would engage in this new effort without the authorities' consent, encouragement and certainly design.

The Turks have always tried to damage the AGBU's reputation. Government controlled media has accused the organization many times that all its fund-raising drives to keep the school open and to provide relief have been intended to train terrorists. Even during the occupation of Cyprus one of the first targets to be bombed was the Melkonian Educational Institute.

Thus far, the Turkish authorities failed to damage the AGBU. Today, they seem to have found a helping hand in the adventurous person of Archbishop Mutafian.

If he were truly concerned with the demise of an Armenian educational institution, he would better serve his community by suing the Turkish government in International Court at The Hague to reopen the Holy Cross Seminary in Istanbul. His colleague at the Fenerbahce, the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch, has been fighting to reopen his seminary and it looks as though he will succeed.

Armenians traditionally have instant respect when confronted by an person in clergy garb - more so with Istanbul Armenians, who have enjoyed the spiritual leadership of inspirational patriarchs over many centuries. Some clergymen have taken advantage of that respect and they have abused that clergy garb and rank. Archbishop Mutafian seems to be one of them.

The Melkonian Educational Institute alumni, who may have legitimate concerns about the demise of their beloved school, would lose the credibility of their cause by playing into the Turkish hands.

Those who believe they have found a hero to champion their cause may actually be following a man with Turkish mischief at heart.

ADL RAMGAVAR
Central Committee
Boston, Feb. 2005

 


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