Deputy Minister Konstantinos Vlasis participated online in the international “Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief,” which was hosted by Poland on 16 and 17 November, with the participation of some sixty countries, International Organizations and NGOs.
In his remarks, Mr. Vlasis pointed to the importance Greece attaches to advancing religious freedoms as a necessary condition for the peaceful co-existence of peoples, promotion of international security, and prosperity and development of societies, as described in the UN’s 2030 Agenda.
Mr. Vlasis then commented on the important role played by Greek Orthodoxy’s Ancient Patriarchates in Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem – in North Africa and the Middle East, respectively – in preserving religious and cultural plurality. He also highlighted that the Christian populations of these regions are, to this day, facing persecution, leaving no room for complacency.
Finally, he made special mention of Turkey’s conduct with regard to respect for religious freedom and expression. Having noted Turkey’s stubborn refusal to recognize the Ecumenical nature of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, he reiterated the longstanding demand that the Halki Seminary be reopened.
In closing, the Deputy Minister pointed to Turkey’s obligation, as a founding member of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, to respect and not alter the ecumenical nature of Hagia Sophia and the Monastery of Chora, World Heritage Sites that have recently been converted into places of Muslim worship, in violation of, among other things, the obligation of prior notification of and consultation with UNESCO. At the same time, fully respecting the right to freedom of expression and faith, Greece officially opened the Athens Mosque, a highly symbolic move that demonstrates our country’s will to firmly defend the right to religious freedom.