Islamic law forbids subject non-Muslims, dhimmis, to build new churches or repair old ones. Even in “secular” Turkey, this has been a sticking point, and now in rapidly re-Islamizing Turkey, Turkish authorities are offering Assyrian Christians an ugly trap: “Turkey’s Ugly Trap for Assyrians,” by Dikran Ego for AINA, January 17:
(AINA) — Turkey’s permission to allow the Syrian Orthodox community to
build a church in Istanbul after 90 years of the republican period did
make a great splash in the Turkish press recently. At first glance, this
decision is seen as a positive signal by everyone. But upon closer
inspection the matter looks quite ugly and filled with mischief.
For many years, Orthodox Assyrians (Turkish SÃ¼ryani Kadim)
living in Istanbul were using other Christian communities’ churches to
hold their holy sermons. The only existing church in Tarlabasi could
understandably not accommodate the need of 17,000 people living in the
city. In recent years the Assyrians asked the authorities to assign them
a vacant lot to build a church in order to service the parishioners.
authorities finally offered a lot of land to the administration of the
Syrian Orthodox Church in Istanbul. However, it became clear that this
land was seized by the government from the Latin Catholic church in 1950
and is an old cemetery. The Latin Catholic church is in a legal battle
with the government to acquire its land.
The injustice done in 1950 to the Latin Catholic church is repeated again today against the Monastery of St. Gabriel (full coverage)
in Tur Abdin, in southeasten of Turkey. Obviously, the high
institutions of the Turkish state, regardless of domestic laws and
signed international treaties, do not hesitate to confiscate minority
properties based on political expediency.
The Turkish authorities
are trying to offer the usurped cemetery of the Latin Catholic church to
the Assyrians in Istanbul as if it is state property. While the
administration of the Syrian Orthodox church expressed demonstrated some
reservation about this ugly game of the government, Assyrian
intellectuals in Istanbul and Europe voiced strong criticism.
Susin, the chairman of the Syrian Orthodox Foundation in Istanbul,
stated in a recent interview with ACSA TV that the Latin Catholics are
aware of the land issue and that everything will be done with their
consent. However Nail Karatas, the Latin Catholic Church’s lawyer, in a
follow up ACSA TV interview disagreed with Sait Susin. Karatas said that
they are against a transfer of the stolen cemetery lot to the Syrian
Orthodox Church or to someone else and indicated that the case will be
handed to the judiciary.
Intellectuals within the community accuse
the administration of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Istanbul of
demonstrating an unethical approach to the subject, inconsistent with
the righteous cause of St. Gabriel, and would ultimately hurt it.
remains to be seen how this action of the Turkish Republic, which
brings the Latin Catholic Church in opposition to the Syrian Orthodox
Church, will play out.