American Hellenic Institute


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AHI Condemns Turkey’s Cancellation of Religious Service Commemorating Virgin Mary
August 15, 2016—No. 39 (202) 785-8430

AHI Condemns Turkey’s Cancellation of Religious Service Commemorating Virgin Mary

WASHINGTON, DC — The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) condemns the recent decision by the Turkish government to not allow services to take place at the historical Greek Orthodox monastery, Panayia Soumela, in Trabzon, Turkey on August 15, the feast day of the Virgin Mary.

“This is only the latest in a string of religious freedom violations for Turkey,” President Nick Larigakis said. “For years, the Turkish government has disregarded international treaties intended to safeguard religious freedom and persecuted their religious minorities, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Turkey has reneged on promises to reopen the illegally closed Halki seminary and escalated violations of religious freedom and human rights against its minority populations of which bodies such as the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has noted.”

Larigakis cited a November 24, 2015 statement by Robert P. George, USCIRF chairman, that stated, “the failure to reopen the Halki seminary is a stark example of the Turkish government’s failure to uphold its international obligations to protect and promote the freedom of religion or belief.”

Under the International Religious Freedom Act, the president of the United States is obligated to oppose violations of religious freedom in any country whose government “engages in or tolerates violations of religious freedom and promote the right to religious freedom in that country.”  

Larigakis added “We call on the State Department, the Obama Administration and Congress to continue to exert the pressure necessary to ensure that Turkey adheres to the rule of law and religious freedom.  Turkey’s actions are an affront to the founding principles and laws of the United States.”  

The American Hellenic Institute is a non-profit Greek American public policy center and think tank that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.



For additional information, please contact Georgea Polizos at (202) 785-8430 or For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at and follow us on Twitter @TheAHIinDC.