The government will permit one of Turkey's Christian communities to build a church, the first such house of worship to be built completely from scratch in the Republican Era. According to Vatan newspaper's Emre Eser, the church will be built in the Yeşilköy district of Istanbul with funds provided by the Mardin Syriac community.In this case, the decision may have been spurned on by the violence in Syria and its devastating effect especially upon the Christian population of Syria. Turkey is not without a significant population of refugees. Part of the balancing act was that no new land was appropriated but the decision was made to build the new church structure on land already marked for Christian usage (a Catholic cemetery).
The Virgin Mary Syriac Church will cost $1.5 million, and according to sources from the Prime Ministry who spoke with Anadolu Agency (AA), the decision to approve the building of the church was made during the luncheon Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu held with minority leaders on Friday at Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul. There are 25,000 Syriac Christians in Turkey, 18,000 of whom live in Istanbul, and the church will be built within the confines of the Catholic Cemetery in Yeşilköy.
All of this simply points out the fact that Christians have been a minority in the Middle East for a long time but now face virtual extinction. The Christian presence in many areas, though it has dated from the time of Christ, has fared worse than any other population in the face of upheaval, war, terrorism, and violence. Sad to say, Christians fared better under dictatorships than they have under the semblance of more democratic governments.
Although ISIS may be on the decline, there is no promise that Christians will fare much better in their absence. In the end Christians in the Middle East have long been used as pawns in the power struggles between factions of Islam, the tension between modernity and traditionalism, and the gulf between those who might prefer a more secular government and those who are intent upon a theocratic structure. How many historic and ancient church buildings have been destroyed and how many Christian populations decimated only to see one new building arise in the most Western of the nations of the Middle East! Pray for our brothers and sisters who face daily threats and persecution and whose future is more tenuous than ever before.