An unsigned “call to action” in defense of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was published today on the “Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism” Web site. This appeal asks readers to sign a Web-based petition which demands that the “Turkish government … take steps to guarantee the recognition, safety, and protection of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Patriarchate, the Seminary of Halki, and the ethnic minority of Greek Christians living in Turkey.”
The “call to action” placed the weight of its argument for religious freedom and human rights on a “Charter of Privileges to Christians” purported to have been signed by Muhammad, the founder of Islam, in the 7th Century. The “call to action” described this charter as emblematic of the “established universal position” of human rights that also inspired the U.S. Constitution.
To those who were privileged enough to see the, CBS 60 Minutes story about His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, that aired on December 20, 2009,
The segment focused on the challenges and struggles His All Holiness faces to sustain the Patriarchate, as well as the sacred early Christian churches and monuments in Turkey, under a government which has continually refused to recognize his title as Ecumenical Patriarch and also legitimize the legal status of the Patriarchate and related Greek properties. In the words of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church and approximately 300 million followers around the world, he and other Greek-Christians living in Turkey, “are treated as second class citizens.”
One of the most compelling and factually important aspects of the segment was the reference to the Prophet Muhammad’s Charter of Privileges to Christians, in his letter to the Monks of St. Catherine Monastery. In 628 A.D., the Prophet Muhammad granted this Charter of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights and religious tolerance, including the protection of Christians, their freedom of worship and movement, their freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property and religious houses of worship, and the right to protection in war. (An English translation of the Prophet Muhammad’s Charter of Privileges, by Dr. A Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq can be found at http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/charter1.html
This televised segment and interview, made it evident that now, more than ever, there is a need for the Turkish government to apply this proclamation in many respects, to how the Patriarch is treated. Given the unfortunate recurrence of ever increasing threats and restrictions against the Patriarchate, perhaps the Turkish government should pay heed to the Prophet Muhammad’s words, even though they are a secular state, predominantly populated by Muslims.
After all, what the Prophet Muhammad called for in 628 A.D. is a respect for the religious freedom and human rights of all people, an established universal position that has been the foundation for many documents including nationally the United States Constitution and internationally in the Geneva Convention as well as the foundation of many religions around the world.
A Founder of Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism
From the “Charter of Privileges”:
This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.
Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.
No compulsion is to be on them.
Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.
No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses.
Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.
No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight.
The Muslims are to fight for them.
If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.
Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants.
No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).