CHRISTIANS in Turkey have given a cautious response to reports
that the government has given permission for the first new church
in the country for nearly a century.
After meeting religious leaders last Friday, the Prime Minister,
Ahmet Davutoglu, said that a Syriac Orthodox church would be built
in the Yeşilköy district of Istanbul, where Greek Orthodox,
Armenian, and Roman Catholic churches already exist.
Mr Davutoglu said that it would be "the first [new church] since
the creation of the republic [in 1923]. Churches have been restored
and reopened to the public, but no new church has been built until
But the Area Vocation Adviser to the Anglican Church in Turkey,
the Revd Engin Yildrim, said on Tuesday that "there has not been
much in the way of clarification or explanation about this, yet. We
are not sure if it's genuine, or something of an exaggeration. It
certainly doesn't reflect the broader official attitudes towards
Christians in Turkey."
The small Christian minority in Turkey, estimated at about
100,000, has long complained of being discriminated against. Since
coming to power in 2002, the ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP) has been accused of reviving Islamic practices and traditions
that have left Christians feeling still more marginalised.
In 2011, the Syriac Orthodox community protested when an appeal
court upheld a claim that 244 acres of land around Mor Gabriel
monastery, in the south-east of the country, belonged to the state.
Christians in Turkey said that the move represented a further
attempt to squeeze their presence in the country.
At the time, Canon Ian Sherwood, of Christ Church with St
Helena, Istanbul, said: "The inundation on the historic
property-holdings of church communities has been truly shocking in
recent years. Scores of properties have been lost to Istanbul's
native churches. . .
"Defending centuries of property use and rights is certainly an
uphill struggle that seems to be little understood by Church and
secular authorities in England."