Turkish govt gives go-ahead for first church in century

Published January 4, 2015
Mardin Mort Schmuni Church is seen with the Mesopotamia plain in the background in Mardin, southeastern Turkey. — AFP/file
Mardin Mort Schmuni Church is seen with the Mesopotamia plain in the background in Mardin, southeastern Turkey. — AFP/file

ANKARA: Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government has authorised the building of the first church in the country in nearly a century, officials said on Saturday.

The church is for the tiny Syriac community in Turkey and will be built in the Istanbul suburb of Yesilkoy on the shores of the Sea of Marmara, which already has Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic churches.

The announcement came after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Turkey’s religious leaders in Istanbul on Friday and said no faith that has lived in the country could be regarded as foreign.

“It is the first (new church) since the creation of the republic (in 1923),” a government source said. “Churches have been restored and reopened to the public, but no new church has been built until now,” he added. Turkey, which once had large Christian minorities, is now 99 per cent Muslim and critics of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have accused it of trying to Islamicise its officially secular society.

Published in Dawn, January 4th, 2015

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