Assyrians around the world are protesting what they consider to be Turkey’s attempt to oppress and eventually close the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox church on Earth.
Mor Gabriel Monastery, founded in 397, has survived centuries of oppression, including the World War I genocide against indigenous Assyrians and Armenians by Ottoman Turkey. Its remote location, perhaps, is one reason.
But with rising Turkish nationalism – and increasing Assyrian demands for recognition of their genocide – Mor Gabriel Monastery is facing challenges. In the words of a Turkish newspaper:
A local prosecutor in August 2008 initiated a separate court case against the monastery after mayors of three villages complained the monks were engaged in “anti-Turkish activities” and alleged they were illegally converting children to the Christian faith. Monks say the mayors are instigating anti-Christian feelings by accusing Mor Gabriel of being against Islam. Villagers in neighboring Çandarlı, a settlement of 12 humble houses with no paved roads, said they had nothing against Christians and accused the monastery of taking land they need for cattle.
“There is a continued campaign to destroy the backbone of the Syriac people and close down the monastery,” said Daniel Gabriel, director of the human rights division of the Syriac Universal Alliance, a leading Syriac group based in Sweden. “These proceedings cannot take place without the sanction of the Turkish government. If the government wanted to protect the Syriac Christian community, it would stop this case,” he said.
Many churches and monasteries in southeast Turkey — known to Syriac Christians as Turabdin or “the mountain of worshippers” — are now abandoned and in ruins. “You need people to have a church. Without the community, the church is only a building,” said Saliba Özmen, the metropolitan, or bishop, of the nearby city of Mardin.
Photos from a recent demonstration in Europe are available at a Germany-based website.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.