Syriac diaspora reunites in southeast Turkey to mark Easter

syriacs-from-around-the-world-reunite-in-mardin-after-40-years-2011-04-26_l1.jpgSyriac Christians from the diaspora celebrated Easter in Mardin on Sunday in an event that provided a chance for many to return to their homeland for the first time in 40 years.

“This is your true homeland, never forget this,” Mardin Mayor Turhan Ayvaz told a community gathering while wishing visiting Syriacs a happy Easter. “Rather than come here often, we wish to see you settling here permanently. Turks, Kurds, Syriacs and Arabs have been living in fraternity for centuries in Mardin and Midyat which have hosted many a civilizations [throughout history.]”

Centered on the province of Mardin, the region of Tur Abidin is one of the most important in the world for far-flung Syriac communities that were forced to leave the area through the years for a variety of reasons.

“Participation was strong. We could say that joining in the ritual was a first and a form of resistance. The Syriacs who came from Europe to perform the Easter rituals said they had come to Mardin to support the Syriac community in the Mor Gabriel case,” Şabo Boyacı, a prominent figure in the Syriac community, told the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review, referring to a lawsuit brought forth by some locals in an effort to claim lands that are part of the area’s famous Mor Gabriel Monastery.

“Our happiness is greatly increased because of our Turkish, Kurdish, Yezidi and Mıhallemi brothers and sisters who did not abandon us [on this night] and who have become partners in our celebration. We also express our gratitude to the Turkish Republic for mobilizing all their resources for us,” said Johny Messo, the chairman of the event’s organizer, the Syriac Universal Alliance, or SUA.

“The true children of this land who have traveled from far corners of the world to visit their heavenly soil have reminded us once more of the value of our 5,000-year-old homeland,” said Mehmet Ali Aslan, the chairman of the local Akaddian Mıhellemis Association, which also emphasized the need to protect cultural heritage.

Many visitors brought their children along to show them their ancestral lands for the “Culture and Intermingling” night organized by the SUA, which is based in the Netherlands. The visitors also met with their relatives in the southeastern province even though some had difficulty recognizing each other after decades of separation.

Participants expressed messages of friendship and brotherhood throughout the night in Turkish, Syriac and Mıhallemi; celebrants also danced to music provided by Syriac artists Sina Maravge and Aslan Togan for the event, which was aired live on Suryoyo Sat TV, a Syriac community channel based in Sweden, according to Doğan news agency, or DHA.

The Syriac expatriates journeyed to the Tur Abidin area from a variety of countries, including Austria, Germany, Belgium, Syria, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, France, Great Britain and the United States.

During the event, Messo also presented Mardin’s mayor with a plaque thanking him for his efforts in helping Syriacs in the area.