Turkey’s Syriac Christian sect fears for its survival

  • Written by:

Louise Callaghan, Midyat
A Syriac priest celebrates mass at a church in Midyat
The air was rich with incense, and the chanting swelled as black-robed monks filed into the fourth century Mor Gabriel church, crossing themselves. A group of boys stood around an open bible, written in classical Syriac script, and prayed. But almost all the pews were empty.

Just over 100 years ago, this part of Turkey’s southeast was home to hundreds of thousands of Syriac Christians, descended from the ancient Assyrians.

Now, depleted over the past century by war, mass killings and political instability, there are barely 3,000. Soon, they fear, they could disappear altogether. Christians used to be a fifth of Turkey’s population. Now they account for 0.2%.