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Turkey allows building of first new church in a century

Syriac Christians, who speak the language of Jesus, will finally have a church in Istanbul, but why now?
Syriac Christians from Turkey and Syria attend a mass at the Mort Shmuni Syriac Orthodox Church in the town of Midyat, in Mardin province of southeast Turkey February 2, 2014. Despite the empty streets of Midyat, the historical Mort Shmuni Syriac Orthodox Church is overcrowded with a community of three hundred people, mostly children. For longer than two years, not only the native Turkish Christian citizens of Midyat, but also the Syriac families escaping the bloody war in Syria just across the border are j
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On Jan. 2, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with the leaders of religious minorities in Turkey, including heads of various Christian denominations and the Jewish community. One bit of breaking news from the meeting was the government having granted permission to build a new church in Istanbul. This was, as the media noted, “a first in republican history.” No new Christian place of worship has been allowed to be built in Turkey since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, during World War I.

The new church in question will be built in Istanbul's Yesilkoy district, not too far from the Ataturk Airport, and will serve the community of Syriac Christians. This ancient community, which is not much known in the West, is the source of the oldest Christian traditions. Its liturgy is in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. There are some 17,000 Syriac Christians in Turkey, the majority of whom live in Istanbul. They need a spacious church.

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