Turkeyâ€™s Syriac Christian community has secured approval from officials for the construction of its first church. The church, planned to be constructed in the YeÅŸilkÃ¶y neighborhood, is expected to host 17,000 Syriacs who live in Istanbul
Prominent Syriac community leader, Kenan AltÄ±nÄ±ÅŸÄ±k (C) says the construction is set to begin as soon as suitable lands for the new church building are allotted.
After years of tussling and hairsplitting, Turkeyâ€™s Syriac Christian community has secured approval from both the prime minister and the president for the construction of its first church in the YeÅŸilkÃ¶y neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul.
â€œHalf of our community lives in and around YeÅŸilkÃ¶y. We rent churches for Sunday rites, but we can only start morning mass at 11:30, whereas we are supposed to finish our Sunday rites before 10:30 in accordance with our tradition,â€ Kenan AltÄ±nÄ±ÅŸÄ±k, a prominent Syriac community leader, told the HÃ¼rriyet Daily News via e-mail.
The church site will be allocated to the ancient community by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, while construction expenses will be paid for by the Syriacs. An official from Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, who wanted to remain anonymous, told HÃ¼rriyet Daily News that they are searching for a suitable location for the new church.
The church architecture is planned to bear traces of the Syriacâ€™s thousands-of-years-old culture, while the construction is set to begin as soon as suitable lands are allotted.
Community representatives held a series of talks with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan, President Abdullah GÃ¼l and EU Minister Egemen BaÄŸÄ±ÅŸ regarding their problems concerning the new church, including the allocation of land for its construction, AltÄ±nÄ±ÅŸÄ±k said.
â€œAfterward, we also met with the head of the Istanbul Metropolitan Construction Affairs Committee upon a directive issued by the Istanbul metropolitan mayor,â€ he said, adding they have no communication problems.
â€œWe presented several files to the head of the construction affairs committee and he offered a few places, but they were not suitable for us,â€ said AltÄ±nÄ±ÅŸÄ±k, a businessman and head of the Syriac communityâ€™s Foundation for the Church of Mother Mary, which is located in the TarlabaÅŸÄ± neighborhood in central Istanbul.
The community holds the title deed to the Church of Mother Mary and the metropolitan center that houses it, AltÄ±nÄ±ÅŸÄ±k said, adding that about 17,000 Syriacs live in Istanbul with scant numbers still living in the southeast as well.
A metropolitan center acts as a higher institution for an orthodox church. Many of Turkeyâ€™s Syriacs migrated to Europe during the mid-1980s, when there was political turmoil in the southeast.