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ICC Note:

Life has changed drastically for Christians in Turkey within the last century, and not for the better. The population of Syriac Christians in Turkey’s southeast has been steadily depleted, and now account for a small percentage of the population in an area where there used to be hundreds of thousands. Last year’s coup attempt has led President Erdogan to increase his anti-western rhetoric, indirectly encouraging the belief that Christianity is a western concept which translates into Christians being traitors. The few Christians who remain in Turkey’s southeast are increasingly worried that if Christianity survives in the area, it will only be through the grace of God.

 

12/25/17 Turkey (The Times) – The air was rich with incense, and the chanting swelled as black-robed monks filed into the fourth century Mor Gabriel church, crossing themselves. A group of boys stood around an open bible, written in classical Syriac script, and prayed. But almost all the pews were empty.

Just over 100 years ago, this part of Turkey’s southeast was home to hundreds of thousands of Syriac Christians, descended from the ancient Assyrians.

Now, depleted over the past century by war, mass killings and political instability, there are barely 3,000. Soon, they fear, they could disappear altogether. Christians used to be a fifth of Turkey’s population. Now they account for 0.2%.

The fall of the Ottoman empire after the First World War, and the Greek invasion of Anatolia, left a legacy of mutual distrust between Muslim Turks and the Christian minority.

In today’s Turkey, Christians say, the old suspicions have been exacerbated by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s anti-western rhetoric since last year’s attempted coup.

“We felt very insecure after the coup,” said Isa Dogdu, the deputy head of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation. “He pictures the West as tyrants and traitors. For many people in Turkey, that translates into Christians being traitors . . . he is nourishing this.

“The state doesn’t like to see other religions in this country. If we survive here it won’t be through their tolerance. It will be through the grace of God.”

For Assyrians, memories of 1915 — known as Seyfo, the Year of the Sword — still lie close to the surface. As many as 275,000 Syriacs were massacred by Ottoman forces in acts of slaughter that are considered genocide by descendants of the survivors.

For young Syriacs today, there is little social life away from the church. Tourism, which was their lifeline, has almost been extinguished as terrorist attacks and political instability have put off European visitors.

(Full Story)

 

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