Patriarch Bartholomew beckons exiled Greek Orthodox Christians to return

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Patriarch Bartholomew beckons exiled Greek Orthodox Christians to return

By Amina Lahmar/ la-croix.com

During the celebration of the Dormition on August 15, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople called on Greek Orthodox descendants to return to Turkey, from which they were expelled in the 1920s.

"Return home to the homes of your ancestors. Many have already done so," said Patriarch Bartholomew I from the largest Turkish island, Imbros, where he is from.

It is not only this island — Gökçeada is its Turkish name — that is concerned by the patriarch's declaration but the whole diaspora that he urges "not to forget its roots, and to return to where they are from."

Anatolia (aka Asia Minor, i.e. most of modern-day Turkey) was emptied of its Greek population at the end of the Greek-Turkish war of 1919-1922; it is the "Great Catastrophe."

According to the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, nearly 350,000 Greeks were killed between 1916 and 1923.

The 1923 Lausanne Treaty of 1923 stipulates the displacement of 1,300,000 Greeks from Turkey against 385,000 Turks from Greece. This measure was not applicable to the islands of Imbros and Tenedos.

Imbros: the island of a symbol?

Following the Treaty of Lausanne, the island of Gökçeada became Turkish, but the Greek majority still resides there.

As a result of inter-ethnic tensions, Imbros became an "open" prison farm in 1965. Criminals convicted by the courts can move freely through it.

Local populations suffer from murders and assaults. The vast majority of Greek Orthodox fled the island and in 2017, just 200 Greeks lived on the island, compared to 12,000 before 1965.

Patriarch Bartholomew I had a primary school and a middle school built for the families who had returned to the island. He also rehabilitated all the churches on the island as well as two monasteries and several chapels.

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 23:06
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