Christians in Turkey request prayer after the state appropriation of approximately 100 churches, monasteries and cemeteries belonging to the Syriac community in the province of Mardin in the south-east of the country.
On 23rd June 2017 the media outlet Agos reported that church properties had been appropriated by the State Treasury, and that the Directorate for Religious Affairs had then been granted control over many of these properties. The church and monastery foundations had been unaware of these developments until Agos and other media brought the situation to light.
Following complaints, the governor of Mardin established a commission to look into the property dispute. On 3rd July the commission met with the three Syriac foundations which had lost property. The governor acted with good will towards the foundations, and the handover of the portion of church property assigned to the Directorate for Religious Affairs was cancelled. However, the title deeds remain in the possession of the State Treasury.
The church foundations submitted a request to the authorities in Ankara, asking for the properties to be registered with the Syriac foundations. Syriac Christians are hoping that the government will comply with this request.
Many Syriac Christians fled the region after intense fighting between government and Kurdish forces in the 1980s and 1990s, leaving behind church property, which was registered in the names of private individuals. However, some of the churches and monasteries are still in use for special functions, and relatives continue to visit the graves in the cemeteries.
In 2012 Mardin’s provincial government established a committee to re-assign property in surrounding villages. The “abandoned” church properties were transferred to the State Treasury by this committee, without the knowledge of the church foundations responsible, and so could be handed over to the Directorate for Religious Affairs or assigned elsewhere.
MAY BE CIRCULATED TO GENERAL MAILING LISTS, OUTSIDE ORGANISATIONS, AND QUOTED FROM FREELY IN REPORTS CITING “MIDDLE EAST CONCERN” AS THE SOURCE OF THE INFORMATION.
Christians in Turkey are thankful for the good will of the governor, and that the transfer of those properties assigned to the Directorate for Religious Affairs was quickly cancelled, but request prayer that:
a. the Syriac community will not be disheartened by a further struggle to maintain their presence in the Mardin region (known as Tur Abdin to the Syriac community)
b. the relevant government offices in Ankara will quickly decide that the correct course of action is to return the church properties to the Syriac community
c. the Lord will strengthen and grant wisdom to church leaders and representatives of the foundations as they deal with this situation
d. the Lord will use this difficult situation for the good of His people