Ever since exterminating 1.5 million Armenians and depopulating historic Armenia, successive regimes in Turkey have been hard at work, in an obsessive determination to wipe out all traces of Armenian heritage in our ancestral land.
However, since Ataturk’s Europeanization, the traditional Turkish scimitar has been replaced by more sophisticated methods with the very same ultimate goal to drive the original inhabitants of the land into oblivion.
Recognizing fully the role of the Armenian Church in preserving the Armenian culture and identity, the Turks have turned it into a prime target of destruction. Thousands of houses of worship have been reduced to ruins. Additionally, the Turks have resorted to every ruse, any kind of Byzantine law to emasculate the remaining Armenian community in Istanbul, especially decapitating its spiritual leadership.
Contrary to Lausanne Treaty (1923) provisions, the Turkish government has shut down the Holy Cross Armenian Seminary, the only center where young generations of clergy could be trained. When Armenians resorted to other creative means to replenish the dwindling pool clergymen by emoting aspiring clergymen at the Jerusalem Seminary, the Turkish government acted swiftly to ban that route as wail, accusing Armenians of training terrorists in that seminary. One of those returning seminarians, Father Manuel Yergatian, ended up in jail with ludicrous accusations and he suffered most of his 14 years verdict in the Turkish dungeons.
While denying all venues to train young clergy, the Turkish government has devised another trap: thus the Turkish law prohibits anyone from being elected as the Armenian Patriarch who is not born in Turkey. These restrictions severely curtail the number of potential candidates, only to eliminate all the candidates in a matter of several years.
Under these devilish Turkish schemes, clergymen of dubious reputation will ascend the Patriarchal throne default. The current Patriarch, Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian, is the product of that default.
His predecessors, Archbishop Karekin Khachadourian, Archbishop Shnork Kalousdian, and even Archbishop Kazanjian, have served the Patriarchate with extreme prudence, cognizant of the limitations and restrictions imposed by the Turkish government. Thanks to their prudence, wisdom and inspiring personalities, the great traditions of the Istanbul Armenian community have been preserved, the creative impulse of the intellectual life has remained productive, and the institutions have survived.
The emergence of Archbishop Mutafian has altered the scene dramatically. Traditionally united, the Istanbul Armenian community has been severely divided. He has bullied intellectuals, journalists and benefactors by his unorthodox behavior; however, thanks to the wisdom of the injured parties not to react, eccentric behavior of this young clergyman continues its damage.
Since Archbishop Mutafian was easily elected to the Patriarchal throne, with Turkish government crutches, he was intoxicated with his instant success and he used the Patriarchal throne as a launching pad to try his luck as the Supreme head of the Armenian Church – where he discovered that Turkish tentacles were not long enough to help him in his outlandish design. He was frustrated and he turned against the Holy See of Etchmiadzin; used every opportunity to demonstrate his disrespect and he broke away from the traditional hierarchal relations, which the former Patriarchs had established and cherished sacredly.
All his predecessors had been coerced by the Turkish government to get involved politically to promote its dubious agenda to the detriment of the Armenian cause, but they had wisely shied away from engaging in any such adventure. Yet Archbishop Mutafian gleefully engaged in that adventure at the first advance of the Turkish authorities. He allowed himself to be used as a political tool when he took a tour of Europe last year to promote Turkey’s admission into the European Union, while the world Armenian political leadership was opposing the move vehemently.
Upon his return to Istanbul he believed that he had earned Brownie points with the Turkish government. When he approached the Turkish authorities with problems plaguing the Armenian community, he discovered that nothing had been changed, and that the same authorities continued their discrimination policies. They continued usurping community assets and controlling the Armenian schools to eradicate any ethnic tradition left there.
As the Turkish heavy hand was relentlessly working to disrupt community life, instead of complaining to the International Court, or declaring a hunger strike at UN Headquarters to draw attention to the plight of the Armenian community, he dared to show up at the Turkish TV to say what the Turks waited to hear and what they wanted the world to hear – that Armenian community had been living freely and peacefully and that no other Armenians from abroad had to meddle im their affairs.
When the European Union representatives visited Turkey to contact the community leaders, Greeks, Kurds and Jews courageously cited their grievances, yet Archbishop Mutafian disappeared on a Greek island.
During President Bush’s visit he spoke of humanitarian values and complained about Abu Ghreib Prison in Iraq, instead of complaining about Midnight Express style Turkish prisons.
As the world Armenian community struggles for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Archbishop Mutafian plays the Turkish tunes: that history has to be left to the historians, as if there was anything left to be said about the genocide.
The Armenian Mirror Spectator