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02/02/2022 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – Ethnic minority Christians living in Turkey often face increased persecution regarding historical religious places of worship. In a recently reported incident, the Assyrian/Syriac church of Mor Aday is being utilized by local villagers as a stable.

Mor Aday Church, located in the Idil district of Sirnak province, is believed to have been built in 620 AD. The place of worship was left to ruin and neglected by the local authorities. Though some walls are still standing, the lack of protection for the historic church means that it is left to be manipulated to serve those that still remain.

The church is within Tur Abdin, the historic homeland of Assyrians in Turkey. Few Assyrian Christians remain both here and across the country. The Ottoman genocide of Armenians, as well as Greek and Assyrians, decimated the Christian ethnic minorities.

Scholar Susanne Güsten commented in her report, “There were many pressures that continued to drive Syriacs out of Tur Abdin throughout the 20th century. Among them were the Turkification policies of the Turkish Republic, under which their villages and families were renamed in Turkish, their language was suppressed, their freedom of religion curtailed, and their identity denied. Unlike Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, the Syriacs have never been recognized by the Turkish state as a non-Muslim minority under the Treaty of Lausanne. As a result, they were not granted even the limited minority rights accorded to those groups, such as schools, and the right to safeguard their language and culture. The reason for this remains the subject of debate, but it does not change the fact that it constitutes a clear violation of both the letter and the spirit of the treaty by Turkey.”

A report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom underscored the trends that ICC has observed, namely the increased rights violations, hate speech, and attacks against minorities living in Turkey in 2021. This includes the desecration of historical Christian sites across the country, including a Greek orphanage, a Chaldean cave church, and Armenian churches. Treasure hunters and looters help themselves to the unprotected ancient ruins of churches and monasteries.

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