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07/09/2022 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – An ancient Christian cemetery has been tragically desecrated in Turkey. Local Christians discovered the scene recently, on June 29. Graves were discovered damaged, scattered human remains and tarnished funerary objects around the cemetery complex. The perpetrators responsible acted with purpose. June 29 is a day of celebration dedicated to the liturgical memory of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, to whom the cemetery chapel was dedicated upon its construction in 1967. The vandals specifically targeted this location and time of year to maximize their affront against local Christians.

Local Christian communities, including Syriac, Assyrian, and Chaldean groups, gather in the cemetery chapel annually to celebrate liturgies dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. They also gather to perform traditional acts of reverence and devotion at the tombs of their own ancestors who are buried at the site. The location holds tombs that date back to the first millennium. Upon finding the desecrated cemetery this year, local Christians were filled with pain, despair, and outrage. Other communities have expressed their solidarity with outraged Christians, namely the local Yazidi community.

Christians immediately reported the vandalism of the cemetery complex to local Turkish police. They hope that authorities will act effectively to pursue justice against the criminals, especially considering the importance of historical sites in this area not only to local Christians but to the larger Christian community as well. The southeastern province of Mardin, where the cemetery is located, holds tremendous historical significance in large part because the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch existed nearby from the thirteenth century until 1933. A 2018 law even recognized the area’s significance by ordering that control of churches, monasteries, land, and even ancient cemeteries in the area are given directly to foundations linked to the Syrian Orthodox Church. Perhaps the value of the cemetery to the Christian community will motivate Turkish police to find those responsible for desecrating this treasured site.

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