How Turkish Nationalists used a fake Christian Sect to carry out murders and plot coups
I should note this group is linked to the Ataturk leaning ultra-nationalists rather than the current Islamist ruling party in Turkey. It is a fascinating look at Turkey’s “Deep State” en.wikipedia.org - which was the real power (or scared the civilians into accepting its agendas) behind the facade of civilian power in Turkey until recently.
February 7, 2013 - 4:01pm, by Alexander Christie-Miller
The priest’s voice echoed off the crumbling plasterwork of the sanctuary, as only two worshippers took part in a recent Sunday service in Istanbul’s Meryem Ana Church. The low turnout is typical these days. The Turkish Orthodox Church is possibly the country’s smallest Christian denomination, and certainly its most controversial.
Turkish prosecutors allege the church, which traces its roots to the upheaval surrounding the founding of the Turkish republic, is connected to an ultra-nationalist movement, known as Ergenekon, which reportedly plotted to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Church spokesperson Sevgi Erenerol, sister of the current patriarch, has been imprisoned since 2008 on charges that include establishing and directing an armed terrorist organization as part of the supposed Ergenekon conspiracy. A host of ultra-nationalist groups established in 2004 and 2005 had “the same” founders, and “they were all gathering at the Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate,” claimed Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a human rights lawyer.
Beyond the possible Ergenekon connection, Cengiz, the rights lawyer who has worked extensively with Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities, contends that Turkish Orthodox Church members have routinely harassed members of other Christian denominations in Turkey. “It [the Turkish Orthodox Church] has a central role that has not been addressed adequately by the prosecutors,” Cengiz said.
How and why did a tiny Christian church gain a reputation for being antagonistic toward fellow Christians? The answer lies in its origins.
The Turkish Orthodox Church’s founder, Pavlos Karahisarithis was a Turkish-speaking, Greek Orthodox priest, who, in 1922, at the end of the Greco-Turkish War, broke with the pro-Greece Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the supreme Orthodox patriarchate, and allied himself with victorious Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Atatürk took a personal interest in the Turkish Orthodox Church, and expressed his support. Karahisarithis, meanwhile, took the title Papa (“Pope” in Turkish) Eftim, and later changed his last name to the Turkish family name of Erenerol. “Atatürk may have had a pronounced secular view of the world, but he was going against a great trend in history in which religion marked you out as part of a particular group,” commented Anthony O’Mahony, director of the Centre for Eastern Christianity at the University of London’s Heythrop College.
But once Turkey’s 1924 population exchange with Greece took place, Eftim’s potential followers dwindled. The Turkish Orthodox Church’s “raison d’être disappeared” with the 1.2 million Christians who left Anatolia as part of the exchange, said O’Mahony. “History has left it behind.”
His grandson, the current patriarch Papa Eftim IV, has largely shunned publicity. Until her arrest, however, his granddaughter, Sevgi, continued to rally feelings against other Christian groups.
At a 2006 security conference hosted by the military, she described missionaries as “a pawn in political chess” whose “only goal is to invade this land.” She was also involved in harassment of the late Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink, throwing coins and pencils at his lawyers during a court appearance. Dink was shot dead in a 2007 killing linked to Turkey’s ultra-nationalist movement.
“Sevgi Erenerol was one of the most prominent people waging a war against non-Muslims in Turkey,” commented Cengiz, who claimed that the number of attacks and threats against non-Muslims has decreased since Erenerol’s arrest and those of other prominent Ergenekon suspects.
“Although they themselves are supposed to be a minority, they hated other minorities, particularly Armenians,” added Aktar.