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Ocak 25, 2009: 10:46 am #25902ArmaganAnahtar yönetici
While Turkey is eagerly pursuing entrance to the European Union, within their country they are at work trying to wipe out the Christian faith cynically and systematically. To those who know the Christian history of this land this is another hurting development. Would you please write to the Turkish Embassy in your country expressing your disfavor and disapproval of this arbitrary pursuance of the use of their courts? The Bush administration was solidly behind Turkey. We’ll wait to see how the new administration will act. For those of you in the U.S., you may send the attached information to: firstname.lastname@example.org It may help. Thank you for your assistance. Sincerely yours, Thomas Cosmades
Subject: Ancient Monastery in Turkey Threatened
News from the Frontlines of Persecution
– Syriac Christians in southeastern Turkey say a land dispute over the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery is part of a larger system of discrimination against the religious minority in this overwhelmingly Islamic country. Muslim residents of southeastern Turkey dispute the boundary lines of an ancient Christian monastery dating to the fourth century as being unnecessarily large for the needs of a religious community. Islamic leaders from Yayvantepe, Eglence and Candarli are attempting to confiscate one-third of the monastery’s property, claiming it was wrongfully appropriated and that they need it for their livestock. The mayors of the three towns also charged the monastery with attempting to proselytize young children (illegal in Turkey) and carrying out “anti-Turkish” activity. Metropolitan Timotheos Samuel Aktas, leader of the monastery, said in a report that these claims were groundless and of the same provocative nature that has historically sparked violence against Turkey’s Christians. “All the allegations are frivolous and vexatious, devoid of any logic or evidence, solely aimed with the malicious intent of rousing anti-Christian sentiments by the surrounding Muslim villages,” he said.
Ancient Monastery in Turkey Threatened
Muslims’ legal action against 1,600-year-old structure called ‘malicious.’
Special to Compass Direct News
ISTANBUL, January 22 (Compass Direct News) – Syriac Christians in southeastern Turkey say a land dispute over the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery is part of a larger system of discrimination against the religious minority in this overwhelmingly Islamic country.
Muslim residents of southeastern Turkey dispute the boundary lines of an ancient Christian monastery dating to the fourth century as being unnecessarily large for the needs of a religious community. Islamic village leaders from Yayvantepe, Eglence and Candarli are attempting to confiscate one-third of the monastery’s property, claiming it was wrongfully appropriated and that they need it for their livestock.
Area Muslims also say the land in question is forest and thereby registered as land belonging to the State Treasury.
“Our land is being occupied by the monastery,” said Ismail Erlal, village leader of Yayvantepe, according to Cihan News Agency. “We make use of the forest there and pasture our animals; we won’t give up our rights.”
Among the most contentious issues are the monastery walls built around its perimeter, rebuilt 15 years ago. Village leaders complain in a lawsuit to obtain the land that the monastery has gone beyond its rightful bounds. In August the land survey office of Midyat said it had determined that 270 hectares of the monastery’s 760 hectares were government property, including land inside and outside the monastery’s walls.
A court in Mardin originally scheduled a hearing for Friday (Jan. 16) to determine the legal status of the monastery walls, but it was rescheduled to Feb. 11 to allow the court more time to examine the case. At the February hearing the court will determine if the 270 hectares of land belong to the government or the monastery.
Metropolitan Timotheos Samuel Aktas, leader of the monastery, answered in a report that the monastery has the right to leave its land uncultivated and has paid taxes on the property since 1937.
The state originally charged the monastery with being founded illegally, but it dropped those charges by canceling a hearing originally schedule for Dec. 24. Rudi Sumer, the attorney representing the monastery, said that the claim was groundless since the monastery has foundation status dating back to modern Turkey’s origins, not to mention centuries of existence beforehand.
The mayors of Yayvantepe, Eglence and Candarli also charged the monastery with attempting to proselytize young children (illegal in Turkey) and carrying out “anti-Turkish” activity.
Metropolitan Aktas said in a report that these claims were groundless and of the same provocative nature that has historically sparked violence against Turkey’s Christians.
“All the allegations are frivolous and vexatious, devoid of any logic or evidence, solely aimed with the malicious intent of rousing anti-Christian sentiments by the surrounding Muslim villages,” he said.
Mor Gabriel Monastery, founded in 397, is the most revered monastery for Syrian Orthodox Christians. It is inhabited by 15 nuns and two monks and is the seat of Metropolitan Bishop of Tur Abdin Diocese.
In recent decades the monastery has turned into a religious and social center for the country’s remaining Syriacs by offering schooling to children and teaching their ancient language of Syriac, a variant of the language spoken by Jesus.
“The monastery is everything for us,” said a Syrian Orthodox Christian who grew up in Turkey’s southeast. He added that many families in the area had named their children after Mor Gabriel. “Syriacs would give up everything for the monastery.”
An international outcry from the European Parliament and numerous Assyrian organizations throughout Europe arose in response to the charges, according to the Assyrian International News Agency. A member of the German consulate said his country would monitor the case closely, as Turkey is attempting to join the European Union and its human rights record has come under close scrutiny.
Many Syrian Orthodox Christians have left southeast Turkey in the last 30 years as violence escalated between the military and Kurdish terrorists. In the last five years, however, some Syriacs have begun returning home – only to find their property occupied by others.
Residents who fled Mardin province in the mid-1980s returned to find two of their village’s Syriac churches converted into mosques. And the demographic shift from Syriacs to Kurds has increased pressure on the monastery.
“Turkey must protect its Assyrian community,” said Swedish parliamentarian Yilmaz Kerim to the Hurriyet Daily News. He visited the monastery as part of a delegation in December. “There are only 3,000 left in Midyat.”
The lawsuit has the support of a local parliamentarian who claims Christians relished their opportunity to leave Turkey. Süleyman Çelebi, member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), said Syrian Orthodox Christians had never come under pressure, despite their claim that they were exploited, and even emigrated away from Turkey “with joy” in previous decades.
The three villages that brought the lawsuit against the monastery overwhelmingly supported the Islamic-rooted AKP in last year’s national elections. Çelebi claims that the official boundaries of the monastery were established in Ottoman times but not properly observed by the Syriac Christians.
According to the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, Turkey grants full protection to churches, synagogues and other religious establishments to freely practice their own religions. But this treaty only designated Greek and Armenian Orthodox Christians and Jews, creating complications for groups such as the Syrian Orthodox and Protestants to open schools and churches.
Syriac Christians claim to be one of the first people to accept Christianity in the Middle East. Their historic homeland stretches through southeastern Turkey, but their numbers have dwindled to 15,000 following decades of government pressure and fallout from war against the Kurdish Workers’ Party.
**********Şubat 10, 2009: 6:30 pm #32189ArmaganAnahtar yönetici
Dear friends, some of you received information about this ancient monastery. On Wed., Feb. 11th, there is an important court case in the city of Mardin in the south of Turkey. This sitting is considered of extreme importance. Many local Christians and representatives of foreign media will be present. Please pray earnestly that God will overrule this staged court case. We believe He will answer these prayers on behalf of this ancient Christian monastery which has become a fresh symbol of ongoing injustice against Christians in Turkey. Those of you who have read the previous letter we trust have sent letters to the addresses given. Sincerely, Tom Cosmades
Turks step up legal jihad against ancient monastery
Let them into the EU! Here is an Islamic Tolerance Alert from modern, moderate, secular, beacon-of-democracy-in-the-Islamic-world Turkey. An update on this story. “Turkish State Escalates Legal Battle Against Assyrian Monastery,” by Abdulmesih BarAbrahem for AINA, February 6 (thanks to James):
Tur Abdin, Turkey (AINA) — Contrary to the expectation that the Turkish authorities might change the course of events and establish some barriers to protect the monastery of St. Gabriel from the arbitrary claims of the neighbouring villages, the state itself is now increasing the legal pressure by filing a new claim at the cadastre court in Midyat, claiming further pieces of land that belong to St. Gabriel.
Across European parliaments, many politicians are observing with surprise and deep worry, how a few neighbouring Muslim villages, with legal support of the state, pressure one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world. Numerous appeals by politicians, churches and human rights organizations sent to the government in Ankara ask for state protection of the remaining Christians and for the freedom of religion in Turkey.
According to European diplomats, Erdogan’s government is aware of the explosiveness of the case. The EU has underlined its strong interest in this matter, particularly expressed through the deployment of the Swedish diplomat Helena Storm as an observer to the trial in late December in Midyat (AINA 1-21-2009). The topic of religious freedom in context of the accession negotiations with the EU is on the agenda. However, what EU observer have witnessed so far does not appear to be evidence of special respect and protection of the Christians as an indigenous population by a country that intends to join the EU.
As previously reported, based on several inspections and oral statements made last year by the heads of the three neighbouring villages, Yaylantepe, Eglence, and Candarli, the state claimed 276 hectares of monastery land. As a consequence, the disputed monastery forest has been allocated to become pasture land for the neighbouring villages. This contradicts the boundaries officially defined in 1938 between the monastery and the three villages. The documents of the monastery, which prove the ownership along with the evidence that the monastery paid property taxes are apparently ignored. Therefore, the monastery submitted a complaint with cadastre court in Midyat, where, after several hearings, the latest was held on December 19th, and decision postponed to February 11th. […]
What is behind this course of action? This question is raised by many observers of the case who cannot decipher the attitude of the government with regards to St. Gabriel. Why is the Turkish government escalating and complicating the problem?
It would probably be too easy and trivial to explain or answer the questions the way many Assyrians do, which is, that Turkey tries to drive out the remaining Christians from their historical homeland. Upon closer examination, the case appears much more subtle and complex, like many issues in Turkey. […]
These hints would strongly suggest that the members or followers of the AKP party, which are influential in southeast Turkey, backed by politicians, are capable of using the state and its judicial system to annex monastery land for the Kurdish villages; they are trying to demoralize the residents of the monastery by a continuous legal battle to compel surrender.…
Assyrian organizations in Germany organized a large protest rally on Sunday, January 25th in Berlin, where about 20,000 people from all over Germany and its neighbouring countries participated. Many German politicians, church representatives and human rights groups expressed their solidarity with the Assyrian monastery. Some of the posters the demonstrators carried through the streets of Berlin said: “What have we done to you?” which best characterizes the embitterment of hundreds of thousands of Assyrians living abroad, who themselves were driven out of Turkey over the past decades.
What indeed, other than being non-Muslims in an increasingly Sharia-influenced state?
Posted By Robert Spenser
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