The government of Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdogan has seized at least 50 Syriac Christian churches and monasteries, according to press reports in Turkey.
Turkey’s Mardin Governorate has established a special Commission for Liquidation & Sharing of the properties owned by the Syriac community.
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The Turkish-Armenian daily Agos reports that in 2012 the province of Mardin established a “liquidation committee,” which started to expropriate and redistribute the property of churches and other Christian institutions whose legal charters had expired. The seizures and liquidations are ongoing, and the Syriac community has been especially targeted.
The Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation appealed to the decision, but the liquidation committee rejected the appeal in May. Inquiries by the foundation revealed dozens of churches and monasteries had been transferred to the state treasury first and then allocated to the Diyanet. And the cemeteries have been transferred to the Metropolitan Municipality of Mardin.
The church seizures are occurring against the backdrop of Erdogan’s policy of turning Turkey back to its Shariah-compliant Ottoman roots. The Hagia Sofia, one of the most famous churches in the world, is in the process of being converted to a mosque.
The Hagia Sofia was constructed during the Byzantine Empire in its capital of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul.
The great church was turned into a mosque in 1453 after the Muslim Turks conquered Constantinople and subjugated the surviving Christian inhabitants. Following the defeat of the Ottoman empire in World War I, the new leader of the secular state of Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, in 1935 put a stop to Islamic prayers in Hagia Sophia and had it converted into a museum.
The maintenance of some of the seized churches and monasteries are being provided by the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, and they are opened to worship on certain days. Similarly, the cemeteries are still being used by the Syriac community, who are allowed to visit them and perform burials, but they are no longer owned by the church.
Now the world’s oldest Syriac Christian monastery is reportedly in danger of being expropriated by the state.
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The Syriacs have filed court appeals for the return of their property.
“We started to file lawsuits and in the meantime our enquiries continued,” said Kuryakos Ergün, the chairman of Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation.
Ergün said they would appeal to the court for the cancellation of nearly 30 title deed registries.
Included in the seizure is the 1,600-year-old Mor Gabriel Monastery.
The petition filed to the court noted the properties subject to the court case had been, since ancient times, under the possession and ownership of a church foundation and the significance of Mor Gabriel Monastery has been underlined.
Its history dates back to the 4th century AD. It’s one of the oldest active monasteries in the world and one of the most ancient religious centers of Syriacs, with its history of more than 1,600 years.
The Midyat Syriac Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation had been established on the basis of the imperial order of Sultan Abdülmecid Han during the Ottoman Empire in “1267 Islamic calendar (1851/1852 Gregorian calendar) and its status was redefined, became a legal entity, on the basis of the Foundations Law of 13.06.1935 with no 2762.”
Joel Richardson, a Christian filmmaker and author focused on the Middle East who produced the new teaching DVD “Antichrist, Turkey and the Coming Caliphate,” said Erdogan is becoming the most dangerous actor in a region noted for bad actors.
Richardson’s film crew visited Turkey and was present at an Erdogan political rally three years ago. Since then, he has further marginalized Turkey’s Christian minorities.
“If Erdogan is not stopped, history will recognize him as the closest thing to the Adolf Hitler of our generation. President Erdogan began his career pretending to be a moderate,” Richardson told WND.
A prime example is that for years Erdogan spearheaded the U.N.-sponsored program Alliance of Civilizations.
The program would invite various religious and political leaders to Turkey to engage in “religious dialogue,” Richardson said.
“The sole purpose of this was to sell various gullible leaders on the moderate and peaceful nature of Islam. Now Erdogan has increasingly, particularly over the past year, removed his mask,” he said. “While publicly castigating President Trump for breaking the recent tradition of holding a Ramadan ending Iftar dinner at the White House, he has seized control of over 50 churches in his own nation.”
This is but the tip of the spear in the grand scope of what Erdogan is capable of, Richardson contends.
“Erdogan and his government are emerging as the greatest potential entity to take control of the emerging pan-Islamist Caliphate,” Richardson said. “It is long past due that the American government and the praying church awakens to the profoundly caustic mixture of nationalism and Islamism that has emerged in Turkey.”