CONSTANTINOPLE – Laki Vingas, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and former elected representative of minority foundations in Turkey, was the guest of Turkish channel TVNet’s Türk Kahvesi, a program hosted by the distinguished journalist Ayşe Böhürler, known for her objectivity and respect for differing political views. On the program Böhürler welcomes individuals from various communities who are characterized by their exceptional activities and values. Vingas’ participation was significant in that it enabled him to directly and honestly communicate his ideas to an audience that otherwise might not have an opportunity to learn about the Rum (Greek) Community of Constantinople-Istanbul.
After introducing Böhürler to the traditional spoon sweet ‘aspro glyko,’ a gesture which set a warm and friendly tone to the meeting, Vingas discussed traditional Constantinopolitan education as he experienced it: “We learned to love beauty wherever we found it. We gained a wide, multi-layered understanding of the world. We learned Ancient Greek alongside with Ottoman art, literature, and music, and we came to understand the connections between our religious traditions and art.”
When asked about the community’s reaction to a political situation, Vingas replied that that minority communities are often trapped within a perception triangle that consists of the following elements: 1) the communities, although historic, can be considered foreign; (2) the minorities can be used for political reasons or for public relations; (3) in other cases, the public is simply ignorant about the minorities and disposed to prejudices against them.
Vingas expressed regret that, when difficulties arise with Greece, society can polarize into “you” and “us.” The way out of this dilemma, he said, is education. For this reason, the Community of Neochori, of which Vingas serves as President, has opened to wider society and invites people from all backgrounds to participate in its cultural events and philanthropic activities.
Most importantly, Vingas stressed that “a small community like ours has to be productive. By improving and strengthening our current conditions, we must look toward the future.”
The greatest challenge in ensuring that future, however, is demographics: the community now numbers approximately 2,500 individuals. As a final note, Vingas invited the Turkish government to support the Rum community’s efforts to maintain and increase its demographic strength.
Nektaria Anastasiadou's debut novel, A Recipe for Daphne, was published by Hoopoe Fiction/American University in Cairo Press in February, 2021. Anastasiadou is the 2019 winner of the Zografeios Agon, a prestigious Greek literary award founded in nineteenth-century Constantinople. She is currently developing the winning short story into a novel written in the Constantinopolitan Greek dialect. Anastasiadou lives in Istanbul. She writes in Greek and English.