60th Anniversary of the Tragic Persecution of Christians in Turkey

60th Anniversary of the Tragic Persecution of Christians in Turkey

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Across the world, Christians are suffering for their faith, and we beseech you to remember the past and get involved.  Inspired by the Christian Rights and Freedom Institute founded by St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Naples, Florida and the South Florida Archons, the Orthodox Christian Network features important news on current and historical events. 

Remembering the Tragic 60th Anniversary of the Persecution of Christians in Turkey

Sixty years ago, on the night of Tuesday, 6th September, 1955, a mob of 100,000+ Turks in Istanbul, Turkey, organized and directed by government authorities, conducted a vicious pogrom against the Greek Orthodox community and other smaller non-Muslim minorities of Istanbul. There are many parallels between this event and what is going on in the Middle East today!

As background, the narrative that follows offers profound historical insights on Christian persecution that are well worth reading and remembering. The 1955 Constantinople Pogrom (meaning “a state sponsored, violent riot aimed at massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group”) is a personal story which shaped my psyche.

Such stories are not unique. They shaped our people’s history for centuries, especially those who lived under the yoke of Islam. I consider it God’s blessing to live and tell the story. However, this article is NOT a history lesson; it is an attempt to paint a tapestry and help remember, retain, and transmit who we are. Some people insist that we should forget sad events so that we can be happy. There is no reason to live in the past, they say. I say there is power and energy in remembering. “Never Forget” is the imperative! “Move on” is not an option! Jews and Armenians excel in holding on to the memory; Greeks, maybe not so much. The memory of “cosmic events” which shaped our history must be preserved and taught to our children and grandchildren; that’s how we maintain our identity and honor our ancestors – through connection with our history.

On the night of 6-7 September 1955, I was 15 years old. A mob of ~50 Turks attacked our home. Windows were smashed, doors broken; our church across the street was set alight.

My family (parents and 3 siblings) hid all night under the 2 beds in my bedroom on the second floor of a wooden two-story row home. For a few long hours through the night, we thought this would be the end of our lives.

The attacks by the mob began in the early evening on 6 September and ended before dawn on 7 September with the imposition of martial law. Police were ever-present!

The damage was massive:

  • 4,500 Greek homes, 3,500 shops and businesses, 110 hotels, 27 pharmacies, 21 factories, 90 churches and monasteries, 36 schools, and 13 cemeteries were vandalized and/or destroyed.
  • Two priests were set on fire.
  • Sixteen Greeks died, about 20 went missing, 300 were wounded, and 200 Greek women were raped.
  • Thousands of Greeks were beaten, some tortured.
  • Graves of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchs were defiled.
  • Relics of Saints were stolen, burned.
  • Corpses were disinterred and knifed and graves were defecated upon.
  • Defecation on the altars, urination in the communion cups, the piercing and removing of the eyes of Christ from all icons, placing of priests’ sacred clothes on donkeys – all of these atrocities occurred.

The extent of the destruction and devastation could be understood by the photographs below:
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To this day, whenever I think of that night, a wave of anger and fear consumes my body.  Those fateful days shaped my psyche forever. By the grace of God, the damage to our church and neighborhood was relatively minimal. However, it was abundantly clear that life in Constantinople, where our family had lived for over 100 years, was over for us. In June of 1963, after graduating from University, I came to America for graduate studies. A year later, my family was finally expelled by Turkey, leaving behind our successful business, our properties, all of our possessions. Each carrying 2 pieces of luggage and $200, they became refugees and permanently settled in Athens. My father started his second business career at age 55 from scratch.


How Can You Help in Remembering and Honoring the Past?

E.F.C. (Ecumenical Federation of Constantinopolitans) is the international federative union of the Greek-Orthodox Community of Istanbul which was forced to expatriation after a long list of anti-minority measures was implemented by the Government of Republic of Turkey during the period 1923-2003.

E.F.C. has planned events to remind the public in Greece, Turkey, and elsewhere (see below) of the 60th Anniversary of the Crystal Night for the Hellenism of Constantinople. The Pogrom against the Greek Community of Constantinople is comparable to the Crystal Night organized by the Nazi regime in Germany in 8-9 November 1938.

A Parliamentary Commission of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, in a report published in November 2012, stated unequivocally that the Pogrom of 6-7 September 1955 is a critical step in a long list of undemocratic, racist, discriminatory interventions which led to several military takeovers in the country.

The Army General Sabri Yirmibesoglu, who had been the dominant figure of the undeclared warfare against non-Muslims in Turkey for more than 30 years, admitted in 1992 that: “The events of 6-7 September was a magnificent execution of Irregular Warfare and achieved its full intended outcome” (i.e, ethnic cleansing).

The initiatives planned by E.F.C. to observe the 60th Anniversary of the Pogrom include the following:

  • Exhibitions in Athens (2-8 September 2015) and in Istanbul (5-10 September 2015).
  • Conference in the European Parliament, October 12, 2015 (Brussels).
  • United Nations – Minority Conference, November 24, 2015 (Geneva).
  • Exhibition at Geneva University followed by panel discussion, November 24, 2015 (Geneva).
  • British Parliament, early 2016.
  • Washington, D.C., early 2016.
  • Commemorative remembrances in many Greek Orthodox Parishes in the United States on Sunday 6 September 2015.
  • Also, similar events will take place in Thessaloniki and other cities of Greece and Europe.

The principal aim of the initiatives is to raise public awareness and exert political pressure on the government of Turkey to demand remedy for and reparations to the Greek-Orthodox Community of Istanbul as well of the ethnically cleansed islands Imbros and Tenedos.

Such claims have been filed with the European Courts of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France and are supported by exhibits specifically demonstrating the violation by Turkey of numerous articles in the Treaty of Lausanne.

Father Philemon Patitsas reminds us, “Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! No man ever lived as He did, loved as He loved, and gave as He gave. Anyone who would wish to desecrate the greatest temple ever erected in His honor is truly ANTICHRIST. Enough already. Hagia Sophia of Constantinople, the Church of the Holy Wisdom, must and will, one day be restored in His Honor!”


7 Steps: How You Can Help in Defense of Persecuted Christians

The co-chairs of the Christian Rights and Freedom Ministry (Dr. Harry Dimopoulos, Archon Harry Demas and Richard Pappas) and Father Philemon Patitsas of St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church (Naples, FL) invite your questions and involvement. The following 7 steps can assist you in ‘Uplifting Christ and Witnessing for Our Faith in the Face of Radical Extremism.’

  1. Preserve Our Christian Identity

  • Align our minds and hearts with God’s calling. See Christ in others.
  • Glorify God daily; PRAY, fast and give alms.
  • Identify empathetically with the plight of persecuted Christians of the world.
  1. Organize Ourselves for Success
  • Establish Christian Rights and Freedom ministries in communities throughout America. Do you belong to one?
  • Organize local events and initiatives to educate, advocate, defend, and counteract the antagonists of our faith.
  1. Educate Ourselves and Others

  • ’Know Ourselves’ – Study our history, faith, and culture.
  • Develop clear policy positions so the public knows where we stand.
  • Expose misinformation to the light of truth.
  1. Dialogue with the Public

  • Network with people concerned about the rise of Islamofascism.
  • Boycott producers of products that may be underwriting radical extremism and terrorism, such as oil produced by certain member states.
  • Advocate for energy self-sufficiency for America, and alternative energy sourcing options.
  • Advocate withholding foreign aid and military assistance to countries that are not aligned with our national interests.
  1. Stand Up for Ourselves

  • Establish “Anti-Defamation Teams’ to challenge offensive remarks.
  • Petition officials who have the ability to influence public policy.
  • Advocate for economic sanctions; exercise our freedom of assembly.
  1. Invest in the Cause

  • Donate to organizations that help the oppressed and promote the preservation of Western culture and values.
  • Fund infrastructure and activities that advance the cause of Christian Rights and Freedom.
  1. Purchase a ‘I Too Am a Nazarene’ pin

  • Purchase a ‘I Too Am a Nazarene’ pin to benefit persecuted Christians and refugees in the Middle East Conflict. The Arabic letter “N” has been painted by ISIS/ISIL to target the homes of Christians for expulsion and obliteration. The symbol “N” stands for ‘Nazarene’ signifying that its residents are followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Pins are on sale through the St. Katherine Greek Orthodox church’s website. Pins are one inch square, and sell for $5 each, plus shipping and handling, shipping is waived for orders over 50 pins.

To order pins, please contact ChristianRelief7100@gmail.com or visit http://stkatherine.net

All proceeds from pin sales will be directed to the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) Middle East Fund to aid these suffering people. IOCC has had a continual presence in that part of the world almost since its inception in 1992, and was chosen as the recipient because of its effectiveness in providing relief to the suffering people of the Middle East.

All churches and concerned organizations are encouraged to participate. For further information please contact ChristianRelief7100@gmail.com.

About the Annual National Christian Rights and Freedom Symposium

On Saturday, March 14, 2015, St. Katherine Greek Orthodox Church in Naples, Florida and the South Florida Archons hosted their first annual National Christian Rights and Freedom Symposium – ‘Uplifting Christ and Witnessing for our Faith in the Face of Radical Extremism.’

The Second Annual National Christian Rights and Freedom Symposium will be held on March 12, 2016 featuring Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) as the Keynote Speaker.

To watch video highlights of the First Annual National Christian Rights and Freedom Symposium, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnDiwtAs52o.

To learn more about the Christian Rights and Freedom Institute, visit http://stkatherine.net.

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Harry Dimopoulos

Harry Dimopoulos is Chairman of the Christian Rights and Freedom Ministry at St. Katherine Greek orthodox Church in Naples, Florida.