Church Reconsecrated in Diyarbakir, Turkey

In September, I posted about Turkey’s plan to begin returning certain properties it had seized from religious minorities over the past century. Now, a follow up.  Last month, the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News reports, Armenian Church hierarchs from around the world reconsecrated the restored St. Giragos Church in the city of Diyarbakir (below) for use as a site of Christian worship. Reportedly the  largest Armenian church in the Middle East, dating to the 16th Century, St. Giragos had been returned to the Armenian community in the 1960s but, like thousands of other churches in the region, had fallen into ruins. Once numerous, the Christian population of Diyarbakir, mostly Armenians and Syriacs, was eliminated during the genocide of 1915-1923; today, the city is mostly Kurdish. Reconstruction, which took years, proceeded with help from donations from Armenians in Turkey and elsewhere, and from local authorities, who wish to encourage tourism in the region. The ceremony was attended by local officials and the American ambassador, as well as representatives of other churches. The following day, St. Giragos hosted a baptism for dozens of Sunni Muslims of Armenian origin, whose ancestors had converted to Islam during the genocide. Hürriyet reports that the baptism was closed to the press and outside visitors “for security reasons.” Although conversion from Islam is legal under Turkish law, it is a capital offense in Islamic law, and converts are often endangered. The Armenian Church in America (Eastern Diocese) has an interesting article with more photos and details about the reconstruction and reconsecration, here. – MLM

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