THE bell was destroyed in 1915, because it hung higher than the
minarets of all the mosques in the area. In 1980, the church was
closed during the destructive era of nationalist politics. Now, at
last, after 32 years, the Armenian church Surp Giragos, in the
south-eastern province of Diyarbakir, in Turkey (which falls in the
Anglican diocese in Europe), has been reopened.
A bell, similar to the previous one, has rung out after 97 years
of silence. Canon John Higgins was among the hundreds who attended
the first liturgy to be celebrated for the Armenian community by
the Acting Patriarch, Archbishop Aram Atesyan (right). "I felt like
an onlooker at Bethany as Lazarus emerged from his tomb," Canon
Higgins says. "It is astonishing, in the light of their history,
that an Armenian community of any kind still exists in Diyarbakir,
even such a small and elderly remnant."
The church was once one of the largest in the Middle East, and
attracted hundreds of worshippers every Sunday, besides having a
school of nearly 1000 pupils. "The miracle is that the architects
of the restoration are jointly the Armenian communities of
Diyarbakir, Istanbul, and beyond," Canon Higgins says, "and the
Muslim mayor of the city, whose astonishing espousal of a shared
identity and corporate vision brought his audience at the evening
celebratory meal to its feet."
How good it would have been, he says, if some of the
international media cameras, encamped a few miles away on the
Syrian border, had been able to record that.