Turkey Prepares for Historic Church Construction
01/09/2019 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – On Tuesday, the mayor of Bakirkoy (a district in Istanbul) announced that construction of a new Syriac Orthodox Church will begin next February. The construction of this church was originally announced in 2015. It is anticipated that the church will accommodate over 700 Christians and construction will take two years to complete.
The construction of this church is a historic moment in the history of modern Turkey. According to Turkish media, no new church has been built since 1923, when the Republic of Turkey was founded. Historically, Turkey has tightly restricted the construction and registration of churches for centuries. Discrimination, coupled with periods of extremely violent persecution, led to most Christians fleeing Turkey.
However, regional conflicts within the past decade has led many Middle Eastern Christians (particularly Syrians) to seek refugee status in Turkey. As a result, the population of Christians in Turkey has increased significantly even while the number of Turkish Christians remains quite small.
For example, recently Turkish authorities in Erzurum have announced the restoration of a historic church. However, the authorities said that the church would be converted to a library because no Christian community lives in the district. Erzurum is located in Eastern Anatolia, a region where Turkey pursued a number of genocides against Christians.
Today, many Turkish Christians report increased oppression from the government as well as societal discrimination and harassment.
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