Turkey Seizes Six Churches As State Property

The 1,700-year-old Virgin Mary Syriac Orthodox Church in Diyarbakir.
The 1,700-year-old Virgin Mary Syriac Orthodox Church in Diyarbakir.

The Turkish government has seized six churches as state property in the volatile southeastern part of Turkey, reported World Watch Monitor.

After 10 months of urban conflict in Turkey’s war-torn southeast, the government has expropriated huge sections of property, apparently to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir.

But to the dismay of the city’s handful of Christian congregations, this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey’s ancient church buildings – some of which pre-date Islam – have been managed, historically, by church foundations.

The new decision has effectively made the Diyarbakir churches – one 1,700 years old, another built only in 2003 – state property of Turkey, an Islamic country of 75 million.

Turkey is 99% Muslim.

For much of the past 10 months, the small Christian communities of Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Turkish Christian converts have been unable to access their church buildings in Diyarbakir’s city centre due to the heavy fighting; several have suffered minor damages.

Few Christian houses of worship exist in Turkey’s southeast. Although it is the ancestral homeland of Syriacs and Armenians, well over a million of these ethnic Christians were massacred and sent on death marches during the final years of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century.

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