Turkey's Religious Office to Extend Reach Beyond Mosques

Article Summary
Turkey’s Office of Religious Affairs is currently tasked with managing mosques, but its director says it has already become a "gigantic institution" and wants to increasingly deal with problems like drugs, homeless children and terrorism.

The Office of Religious Affairs (ORA), the official body responsible for regulating religious practices and bureaus in Turkey, announced that it is also willing to provide “religious social services.” The ORA’s Director General of Religious Services, Dr. Yasar Yigit, said that the organization wants to go beyond managing mosques, and offer socially-oriented services in senior homes and prisons. Yigit said that the ORA also wanted to be involved in activities involving street children, anti-drug campaigns and the struggle against terrorism.

Dr. Yigit said that his department — which was founded in the same year that the Turkish Republic was created — will have 150,000 personnel in all corners of the country by the end of the year. “The ORA has become a gigantic institution. You can even come across an ORA officer in the most remote town in Turkey. Today, 3,500 staff members are serving abroad wherever there are Turks. We are about to sign protocols with the ministries of justice, health, family affairs and interior to regulate such activities,” he added.

Yigit said that “it is often assumed that the primary duty of the ORA is to regulate and ensure the space for religious practices. However managing mosques is not our only responsibility. The ORA also wants to provide social services based on religious principles. We endeavor to provide services in many facets of life.”

“We want to be active in senior houses, prisons and shelters. We want to deal with problems like drugs, homeless children and terrorism, and collaborate with other state bodies on these issues. We will expand the scope of our services through cooperation with the Ministries of Justice, Family and Social Policies, Health, and Interior Affairs,” he said.

Asserting that the society is in need of these services, Yigit said, “There may be those asking why we are expanding the scope of our services. It is because of the current trend worldwide: religion is increasingly gaining a functional role. This trend affects all societies and does not only apply only to our religion. Religion is now the main pillar for societies, cultures and civilizations.”

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Found in: social services, secularism, religion in turkey, religion, quran, islamists, erdogan, education, akp
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