Erdogan seizes 6 Christian churches in Turkey, makes them state property

Erdogan seizes 6 Christian churches in Turkey, makes them state property
1,700-year-old Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Diyarbakir, Turkey - now the property of the state. (Image: Facebook, Syriac Orthodox Archdiocese of the Western U.S.)

[Ed. – A Dutch parliamentarian says some of the churches were also targeted by Turkish military forces during clashes with the PKK — although the Christian churches are not connected with the Sunni Muslim PKK, and are considered protected sites under the Geneva Convention.]

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s administration recently seized six churches as state property in the volatile southeastern part of Turkey. As World Watch Monitor reports:

After 10 months of urban conflict in Turkey’s war-torn southeast, the government has expropriated huge sections of property, apparently to rebuild and restore the historical centre of the region’s largest city, Diyarbakir.But to the dismay of the city’s handful of Christian congregations, this includes all its Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches. Unlike the state-funded mosques, Turkey’s ancient church buildings – some of which pre-date Islam – have been managed, historically, by church foundations.

Because of this move, the churches in Diyarbakir now factually belong to the state. This includes a church that was built 1,700 years ago, and a new one, built in 2003. …

The seizure has also set off alarm bells in Europe, where Dutch Christian Democrats (of the CDA party) are demanding action from their government. In parliamentary questions (PDF alert) directed at the Dutch foreign minister, MPs Omtzigt and Knops accused Erdoğan of violating human rights. They added that a police official is accused of making a Turkish nationalist salute in the St. Giragos church after the seizure, and even saying: “Sultan Alp Arslan’s grandchildren will bring the unbelievers of churches to the faith.”

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