Thursday, January 25, 2018

Turkey allows first new Christian Church building in modern history. . .

The first brand new Christian Church building to be built in Turkey since the Republican era -- not an insignificant fact.  After a few hurdles and as a result of planning that began more than four years ago, the government has issued approval for this structure to be built.  It is not insignificant.  Turkey is an Islamic country but has maintained a largely secular government and yet that government has walked a very thin line in trying to deal with the majority Muslim population in a region well known for violent protest and, at the same time, deal with the historic Christian roots of a much smaller population.
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.

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.
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).

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.


Anonymous said...

Harken back to 1915 and the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, something the Republic of Turkey still denies. I would be concerned that a church building would provide jihadists with a measure of convenience.

Anonymous said...

This is a ruse. Erdogan is trying to solidify dictatorial rule in Turkey. He has conducted his war with the Kurds in Syria. He is not to be trusted as a partner in NATO.