St Mary’s Syriac Church, Diyarbakir
Christians in Diyarbakir, south east Turkey, have requested prayers as legal consultations take place about a state takeover of church buildings and other properties.
Diyarbakir has been the centre of fighting between government forces and Kurdish fighters since a peace agreement broke down in June 2015. During most of this time, the small Christian communities of Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Turkish Christian converts have been unable to access their church buildings in the city centre.
On 25th March 2016, the Turkish official government press (see link below) announced that 6,300 plots of land in the centre of Diyarbakir were to be expropriated by the Environment and Planning Ministry, including the properties of the Protestant Church, Surp Giragos Armenian Church, Surp Sarkis Chaldean Church, the Armenian Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the Virgin Mary. This was the result of a decision taken by the council of ministers, headed by President Erdogan, on 21st March 2016.
The Director of Foundations, Adnan Ertem, has said that the church properties have been expropriated to protect the historical buildings, but the Christians in Diyarbakir have been left without anywhere to meet and no provision has been made for the return of the properties to the Christian communities.
Although many other people and properties will be affected by the same state decree, the pastor of the Protestant Church, Ahmet Güvener, considers this to be an official bid to take over the church buildings which, he says, cannot be allowed.
Turkish Christians appeal for prayers that: God will give wisdom to church leaders and legal experts as they negotiate with the government. That God will strengthen and encourage the small Christian community in Diyarbakir, which has already been deeply affected by the violence of the last nine months.
That the churches will not lose the right to their buildings. That government officials involved will be supportive and respectful towards the local Christians regardless of tradition or ethnic background and that the fighting in Diyarbakir will cease and that civil society will have an opportunity to recover.
There have been Christians in Diyarbakir since the first century.
Link to Turkish report: http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2016/03/20160325.pdf (pages 7-18)
Source: Middle East Concern