Erdogan Inaugurates First Church in Turkey in a Century
The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will preside over the opening of the Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church, which will be the first church in Turkey to get financial assistance from the state. The church will be the first in Turkey to receive financial backing from the state. This will be a period in Turkish history that is significant not just culturally but also politically.
A Milestone in Turkish History
In Turkey's history as a post-Ottoman state, the Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church symbolizes the first church to be built with funding from the Turkish government, making the inauguration of the church an event of tremendous significance. This significant achievement has important ramifications for President Erdogan and the nation in terms of both culture and politics.
Erdogan's controversial history President Erdogan has faced criticism during his two-decade rule for converting ancient churches into mosques and promoting Islamic conservatism as a dominant social force in Turkey. He has defended these actions as restoring the rights of devout Muslims in a secular republic established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.
A Church for Assyrian Christians
Erdogan initiated the construction of the Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church for Istanbul's Assyrian Christian community, which numbers around 17,000. This act marked a significant step towards promoting religious diversity and tolerance in Turkey.
Historical Significance of Assyrian Christianity
Assyrian Christianity has its roots in communities that existed in the region from southeastern Turkey to Syria and Iraq in the first century AD. Its central church relocated from Mardin, Turkey, to Damascus in 1932. While some smaller churches have quietly operated in Turkey over the past century, this is the first officially sanctioned church constructed during this time.
Erdogan's previous actions, such as converting Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, once the world's largest cathedral, into a mosque in 2020, drew international criticism. UNESCO expressed its "grave concern" about this move. In the same year, Erdogan converted Istanbul's Chora Church, an iconic Byzantine-era monument, into a mosque.
Erdogan's Complex Approach
President Erdogan's approach to religion has been multifaceted. While he strongly defends the rights of devout Muslims, he also embraces Turkey's diverse communities. He has emphasized unity and inclusivity, declaring that he has written a "love letter" to every individual in Turkey, regardless of their origin or religion.
A Symbolic Gesture
The inauguration of the Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church, which can accommodate 750 worshippers, offers Erdogan an opportunity to showcase his commitment to religious tolerance and diversity. It symbolizes a shift from his controversial actions in the past and represents a step towards inclusivity in Turkey.
The Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church's opening in Turkey represents a significant milestone, both culturally and politically, and highlights the nation's evolving approach to religious diversity and tolerance under President Erdogan's leadership.