The April 1 Metro article “A new community spirit” was right to highlight the controversy surrounding Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s participation in the opening of the Diyanet Center of America. But there’s another point to be made. The freedom of religion enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and cherished by Americans — the very freedom to worship that Marylanders will enjoy at this new mosque — does not exist inside Mr. Erdogan’s country.
The bitter irony is that if Mr. Erdogan wanted to celebrate the opening of an important place of worship and build bridges between great faiths, he need not have come halfway across the world to Maryland. On any day of the week, he could travel to the Halki seminary and reopen it. He could walk to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and restore the religious freedom of this spiritual center of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, including millions of Americans. But Turkey’s authoritarian policies keep the Halki seminary shuttered and reduce the ecumenical patriarch to the status of third-class citizen.
I am proud to be among the many members of Congress who repeatedly have called for the reopening of Halki and for the full restoration of religious freedom to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We will continue to press Turkish authorities to do the right thing, though it is unlikely Mr. Erdogan will become sensitized to issues of religious freedom and human rights.
John Sarbanes, Towson
The writer, a Democrat, represents Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District in the House.