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    Oldest Christian Communities in Turkey Fear Extinction

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    The world’s oldest Christian communities in Turkey are fighting a legal battle with the government, Al-Monitor reports.

    The Syriac Orthodox Church is defending its ownership of churches, monasteries and other properties in southeastern Turkey. Authorities have confiscated 50 properties of the Church, saying the ownership of the deeds has lapsed.

    “Our churches and monasteries are what root Syriacs in these lands; our existence relies on them. They are our history and what sustains our culture,” stated Ergun. “While the country should be protecting this heritage, we instead see our culture is at risk.”

    Kuryakos Ergun, the chairman of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, revealed that the government seized two monasteries built 1,500 years ago. He fears that the confiscation of historical monuments would lead to the extinction of the country’s indigenous culture.

    “Our churches and monasteries are what root Syriacs in these lands; our existence relies on them. They are our history and what sustains our culture,” stated Ergun. “While the country should be protecting this heritage, we instead see our culture is at risk.”

    Mor Gabriel, one of the world’s oldest monasteries, appealed to the government to stop taking Christian properties. However, the appeal was rejected and the government ordered the liquidation of the community’s assets instead.

    In 2008, the country’s land officials started to update its national registry, including redrawing the boundaries around Mor Gabriel, The Daily Mail reports.

    The monks disclosed that the municipal reforms left the monastery with little property and the lands they previously owned were now turned over to the state.

    Erol Dora, a Syriac and one of the few Christian lawmakers in the Turkish Parliament, revealed that the government started “transferring to state institutions assets whose status it had determined were no longer valid.”

    Dora explained that the properties used by the Syriac communities should’ve been returned to Mor Gabriel. “Turkey must adopt policies that protect citizens of different faiths. This has to be part of efforts to comply with modern democratic principles and rule of law.”

    The Christian lawmaker is pushing for the government to respect the rights of minority groups in Turkey.

    Sources:
    Al-monitorcom. (2017). Al-Monitor. http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/07/turkey-syriac-christians-fear-land-dispute.html

    Dailymailcouk. (2017). Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4676494/Properties-confiscated-ancient-Christian-community.html

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