They told the Bulgarian site "Doors to Orthodoxy" (dveri.bg)
Actually it is not an interview for Dveri.bg, it is just a Bulgarian translation of an interview for a Greek newspaper. http://www.dveri.bg/content/view/5545/312/How a Turkish family discovered Orthodoxy
9th December 2007Ahmed and Nedzhla are two of the thousands of Turks, who changed their faith in recent years, and they, unlike others, do not hide this. They tell about their spiritual quest that led them to Orthodoxy, and about what it means - to be a Christian in Turkey.- The Turkish press explains the recent mass baptisms in the country as “a back to the roots” of Turkish citizens with Greek and Armenian origin. Did the national origin play crucial role for becoming Christians in your case?Ahmed:
Origin plays role in some cases, but it is not our case. I was born in Capadocia, I have ancestors, who have come from Caucasus. As far as I know, there have never been Christians in my family. Entering into Orthodoxy is my personal choice.Nedzhla:
My mother is from Kavala, my father is Pontian. Some members of my family speak Romaic language (a local Greek dialect of the Islamized population)
. But leaving Islam for Orthodoxy was my personal choice, which has nothing to do with the origin."The Romaic ethnos"- Historically Turkish identity is connected with Islam so close, that many Turks can not accept the idea that someone may be Turk and non-Muslim. What about you? N.:
It is true, that many people don’t consider you Turk if you confess other religion, especially if you are a Christian or a Jew. They think you belong not just to different faith, but to a different ethnos.A.:
This is due to historical reasons. Ottoman tradition has separated the population into ethnic groups – millets based on religion. For example, all Orthodox formed the “orthodox millet” and the administration paid no attention of their national origin, whether they are Bulgarians, Serbs or Greeks. In Capadocia, where I come from, people speaked Turkish as a mother tongue and even served liturgy in Turkish. What was making them part of the “Romaic ethnos” was their adherence to the Orthodox Church.
Turkish history contains and other different examples. In the past Turkic tribes have accepted Christianity everywhere in the Turkish diaspora. There are Turkic Christians in Central Asia, the Orthodox Gagauz in Romania, but also thousands of Turks in Turkey itself, who have accepted Christianity. They are Christians, but it doesn’t mean they are not Turks. Now I am Christian, but also 100% Turk, and my mother tongue is Turkish. Besides, separation of the population, based on religion is anachronism. People still daunt when they hear that a Turk is a Christian, but things are slowly changing.- What do you do?N.:
I have studied dietology and I am dealing with voluntary activities.A.:
I have been manager of several large state monopoly companies and I have lived some time in the USA. After that I had my own business in Belgium.The way to Orthodoxy- Ahmed bey, is your decision to accept Christianity influenced by the time, when you were living in Christian countries, because of your job? A.:
No, the soil was prepared much earlier. Unfortunately, in Turkey Christianity is represented as something coming from abroad. It is a mistake, because Orthodoxy is part of the history of these lands. It can be seen in the privileges which Mehmet the Conqueror gave to the Patriarchate.
Since children, we have an idea for the Christianity through the prism of Islam. Many Muslims have great respect toward Christians, respect which is required by the Koran, because it accepts Jesus as a prophet. As a whole Muslims respect Holy Theotokos, too. I think you have seen how crowds of religious Muslims gather in the Romaic churches in the City (Istanbul)
, to honour the saints and look for intercession. We are ready to accept the messages of Christianity in Turkey.
If there are problems, they are connected with education, which both sides get, and the lack of knowledge. For example, many Muslims don’t understand the meaning of the Holy Trinity and think that we worship three gods, that Christianity is a polytheistic religion. I don’t say this with critics, I just notify the fact as an example of disinformation. I don’t think I have the right to criticize Islam, a religion which I left. - What about your search, Nedzhla hanim, did it start in Turkey, too?N.:
Yes, it started when I was in the university. As a whole my family was religious, although not following all requirements of Islam. They identified as Muslim, just like me, until my studying in Ankara when I started to distance from Islam. My parents had given us some freedom, regarding religion. Leaving Islam I felt an emptiness, which had to be filled. I read, I was searching for, alone. I took a way which led me to Orthodoxy. - Therefore, your way to Orthodoxy is a result of “local” experience, without influence from abroad…A.:
Any influence from the Christianity in America or Europe can only be negative. I didn’t feel well with local Christians there. They pushed me back from Christianity, because they have turned it into psychotherapy. They go to church on Sunday to unload themselves. But religion aims to fill a different kind of emptiness. Christianity in Europe has turned into a fair, without connection with the faith. For example the Nativity of Christ, so many people say “Happy holidays” instead of “Happy Nativity”. In Europe, people have very superficial relation with Christianity. They don’t have knowledge about the message of its spirituality. - How local Christians differ from European ones? N.:
We are much more close to the essence and tradition of Christianity. A.:
And more devoted. N.:
At least the two of us fulfill the requirements of our faith. We go to church every Sunday, we read the Sacred Scripture every evening together, we pray together.- Do you maintain relations with the local Romaic community? A.:
We maintain very close relations, as we meet every Sunday in the church. There are very kind people in the Romaic community and we found friends there. Everyone can give us something. Liturgies are held in different churches. We go to the churches in Nichori often. Lakis Vingas, the chairman of the community allows Nedzhla to read “Our Father” in Turkish.N.:
Yes, I read the prayer for the Turkish speaking faithful (laughing). - It might be difficult for you to follow the whole service in Greek? A.:
We prepare at home for every service in advance, so that we can participate. We have bilingual edition of the New Testament, so we can follow the Turkish text. The important thing is to understand, to participate…- The tragic fact of the schism of Papa Eftim from the Patriarchate in 20’s and the establishment of the “Turkish Orthodox Church” makes the introduction of Turkish in the Greek parishes in the City more difficult, something which the other Christian confessions have done already…A.:
Yes, definitely. I hope with time there will be liturgy in Turkish in the Orthodox Church. Today only the Creed is in Turkish. The problem with Papa Eftim should be solved, there shouldn’t be hostility between churches… All Orthodox must obey to the Ecumenical Patriarchate...They respected our decision- Did you meet negative reactions in society, after changing your religion? Do you worry? A.:
I didn’t meet any negativism and I can’t say I’m worried.N.:
I didn’t get negative reactions. My family was surprised, but respected my choice. - Do you think there are other people in Turkey who will follow your example and convert to Christianity?A. and N.:
Yes, they are many.- But till now, few are baptized...N.:
It is fact that those who have been baptized are much more than those who “come out” They are afraid of the reactions of the people around them. They are secret Christians.A.:
Yes, there is fear. But this has to be changed, as well as the attitude of the society toward those who change their religion. In all cases, the Orthodox Church doesn’t proselyte. Something more, she has very high requirements for those, who want to change their faith. You should go through long catechization and the sincerity is examined. - So it is not easy to enter in the Orthodox Church?N.:
No, a year has passed, but we wanted it so much. - Were you scared by the attacks against Christians, the murder of Father Santoro in Trabzon or the slaughter of Christians in Malatya, for example? Who do you think is behind these attacks?A.:
I don’t think such a thing may happen in the capital. The country is changing, considering the negotiations with the European Union. Turks are becoming more open and tolerant. But it is understandable that some extreme circles react against this changing. Paranoid resistance to progress is found in these circles everywhere in the world. They are dark forces that have nothing to do with the state. They are the periphery of society.