Persecuted Christians in Syria, Iraq return to once Christian stronghold in Turkey

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Reuters/Mahmoud Hebbo
Syrian refugees wait to enter Turkey after fleeing violence in Syria on the Syrian-Turkish border in Shamm Alqrain village, northern countryside of Aleppo January 13, 2014.
The uprising of violence in Syria has prompted Christians in the nation to flee their homes and look for a safer place to stay. Many have now settled as refugees in the town of Midyat, Turkey, a couple of dozen miles north of the Syrian border, where almost 500 Christians from Syria and Iraq gather for church service.

According to the National Geographic, Midyat and its nearby areas were once known to be the home of Middle East’s Syriac Orthodox Christian community, which was widely dispersed in the late 1800s before the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.

“All Syriac Christians come here. Most of the aid is delivered from here,” said Ayhan Gürkan, a deacon at Mor Barsaumo. He is also one of the members of the Tur Abdin Syriac Christians Committee, a group which is tasked to look after Midyat’s Christian refugees.

Generally, Turkey tolerates non-Muslim religions such as Christianity, though there are times authorities and the people turn a blind eye whenever Christians are persecuted or abused due to their faith.

Mor Barsaumo is the central church in Midyat, though there are three other churches which house refugees throughout the area.

Syrian and Iraqi Christians believe they will be safe here, in spite of the fact that they are only a few dozen miles from their war-torn homelands.