If completed, it will be the first new church building in Turkey since the nation’s founding in 1923.
For the first time in about a hundred years, a new church is being built in Istanbul. The Syriac Orthodox Church broke ground just a few hours ago – and is the first to be built from scratch in modern-day Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan laid the foundation stone on Saturday for the nation’s first new church building in nearly 100 years, saying it reflects the country’s religious diversity.
Much ado and said about Turkish church, this is a good news and not only a good news but a great news for the church of Christ in Turkey and the Middle-east at large.
The building in Istanbul will house the Syriac Orthodox Christian community, which currently does not have its own building and is sharing space in a Catholic church. Syrian Orthodox Christians are paying for the new building, according to Agence France-Presse.
It is being called the first new church building in Turkey since the nation’s founding in 1923. Islam is the country’s majority religion.
“Our geographic location has been the center of religious, ethnic, cultural and racial diversity,” Erdogan said during a ceremony. “Our hearts and doors have always been open to the oppressed who come here from anywhere – from Spain, to the Caucasians from Eastern Europe, to Northern Africa.
“… While the terror groups in Iraq and Syria inflict all kinds of cruelty on these people, we have opened our hearts to them without discrimination.”
Mihael Tore, a Syrian Orthodox priest, told TRT World it was “a very happy day” for his community.
“The churches here don’t belong to us. We share them with our Catholic brothers,” Tore said. “But it isn’t enough, because we are a big group.”
Once the building is complete, Tore said, the Syrian Orthodox community will be part of what he calls a “mosaic” of religions in Istanbul. There are an estimated 17,000 Syrian Orthodox Christians.
Despite the new Church building, Turkey still ranks 26 on Open Doors’ 2019 list of countries “where it’s most dangerous to be a christian.” The list was part of Open Doors’ World Watch List report. Open Doors is a religious liberty watchdog.
Turkey is the country where American Pastor Andrew Brunson was imprisoned.
“Over the last year, the situation in Turkey has deteriorated significantly for Christians as President Erdogan’s powers grow,” the report said. “Churches there try to maintain a low profile, especially after the two-year case of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson who was unjustly jailed there and released in late 2018. Religious nationalism continues to grow to new heights.”