Christians in Turkey are thankful that the Turkish Council of State has reportedly halted the confiscation of Surp Giragos, the largest Armenian church in the Middle East.
Surp Giragos (along with the properties of the Protestant Church, Surp Sarkis Chaldean Church, the Armenian Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the Virgin Mary) in Diyarbakir in the south-east of Turkey was expropriated by the Turkish state as the result of a decision taken by the Council of Ministers (led by President Erdogan) on 21st March 2016.
Diyarbakir has been the centre of fighting between government forces and Kurdish fighters since a peace agreement broke down in June 2015. For most of the time since then the small Christian communities of Armenians, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Turkish Christian converts have been unable to access their church buildings in the city centre.
The Surp Giragos Foundation opened a case to appeal against the confiscation, and the Council of State has now given a ruling that the expropriation of the property is in violation of the Lausanne Treaty* and is against Turkish law. The Council of Ministers, who made the original decision, have not answered queries from the Council of State regarding the reasons behind the attempted confiscation of the property.
The other churches in Diyarbakir have also appealed against the expropriation of their property.
The decision of the Council of State is a positive development as Turkey heads towards a referendum on 16th April that could give increased power to President Erdogan, as well as life-long immunity from prosecution.
* The Lausanne Treaty came into force on 6th August 1924 and included provisions to protect the minorities in Turkey and Greece
MAY BE CIRCULATED TO GENERAL MAILING LISTS, OUTSIDE ORGANISATIONS, AND QUOTED FROM FREELY IN REPORTS CITING “MIDDLE EAST CONCERN” AS THE SOURCE OF THE INFORMATION.
Turkish Christians are thankful for this decision but request prayer that:
a. the confiscation of the other church properties in Diyarbakir will also be halted
b. God will strengthen and encourage the small Christian community in Diyarbakir, which has been deeply affected by the violence in recent years
c. God will watch over His people in Turkey during the politically sensitive time prior to the referendum