Erdogan Lays Stone for Turkey’s First New Church
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently laid the foundation stone for the first new church in Turkey since it became a modern republic in 1923.
The church in the Istanbul suburb of Yesilkoy will serve the 17,000-strong Syriac Christian community, which is also paying for the new building. “It is the Turkish republic’s duty to meet the need for space to worship for the Syriac community, who are the ancient children of this geography,” Erdogan said during the stone-laying ceremony.
Syriac Christians are part of the eastern Christian tradition and pray in Aramaic, which Jesus is believed to have spoken.
Erdogan said he hoped the construction of the Syriac Orthodox Mor Ephrem Church would be completed within two years. He had ordered the Istanbul metropolitan municipality to find space for the building in 2009 while he was prime minister.
Christians make up around 0.2 percent of the total population in Turkey. In recent years, Turkey has restored and reopened churches, but the government has been criticized for trying to Islamicize the official secular country. But Erdogan sought to extend a hand to other communities in the country of 82 million, saying “don’t forget, this country, this state belongs to everyone.” “Anyone who has affection for, contributes to and is loyal to Turkey is a first-class citizen. There are no barriers to anyone in politics, trade or any other area.”
Official statistics show 98 percent of the Turkish population is Muslim, but a poll by Konda group earlier this year showed the number of people identifying as atheist rose from 1 to 3 percent between 2008 and 2018.
(Extracted from arabnews.com)