Syriacs react to minister’s wording regarding Mor Gabriel Monastery

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Vercihan Ziflio?lu Vercihan Ziflio?
Egemen Ba??? is currently in Croatia for special events celebrating the country’s accession to the European Union. DHA photo
Syriac communities outside Turkey have reacted against recent remarks by EU Minister Egemen Ba??? apparently denigrating the value of the Mor Gabriel Monastery. Ba??? had said on June 21 that the historical monastery, an issue of contention between the government and Syriacs, was worth “even less” than the EU Affairs building in central Istanbul.

The Brussels-based European Syriac Union (ESU) said in a written statement last week that Ba???’s stance was insulting.

“Ba???’s approach, which only looks at the monetary value of the monastery, is not a result of senselessness, but a reflection of ignoring the beliefs of people from other religions,” it said. The statement condemned Ba???’s wording and asked for a correction.

ESU spokesperson David Vergili told the Daily News by phone that Ba???’s remarks were “mocking.” If the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) really wanted Syriacs to return to Turkey, it should first find a resolution to solve the issue of confiscated lands and monasteries including Mor Gabriel, he said.

The government has recently called on members of minorities who have fled Turkey to come back, but in order for this to happen economic and social hardship should be removed, he added.

Mor Gabriel is a 1,700-year-old historic monastery located in the southeastern province of Mardin’s Midyat district. In 2008, the Forestry Ministry, the Land Registry Office and the villages of Yayvantepe, Çandarl? and E?lence, sued the monastery for allegedly occupying their fields. The court recognized the monastery as an “occupier,” after which the case was brought to the European Court of Human Rights.