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Turks, Kurds Threaten Assyrian Monastery in Turkey

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.aina.org/releases/20081202055618.htm Turks, Kurds Threaten Assyrian Monastery in Turkey Posted GMT 12-2-2008 11:56:18 Tur Abdin, Turkey (AINA) --
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2008
      http://www.aina.org/releases/20081202055618.htm

      Turks, Kurds Threaten Assyrian Monastery in Turkey
      Posted GMT 12-2-2008 11:56:18

      Tur Abdin, Turkey (AINA) -- Kurdish leaders from
      the villages of Yayvantepe, Eglence and Candarli,
      in cooperation with influential members of the
      ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), are
      continuing their so-called "lawful means"
      campaign to confiscate the land of the Assyrian
      monastery of St. Gabriel, founded in 397 A.D.
      (AINA 9-16-2008). During the Ottoman Empire the
      monastery received the status of a Foundation for
      the Syrian Orthodox Church and is still legally
      regarded as such. Over the last three decades it
      has developed into a major religious and
      community center that attracts tens of thousands
      visitors from Turkey and abroad. The entire
      region has benefited from this development,
      though for some fanatic Kurdish village heads, it seems to be a problem.

      As their initial efforts did not materialize and
      court hearings and trials have been postponed,
      the Kurdish leaders of the villages increased
      pressure by harassing the monastery with the following false accusations:

      * The monastery has been established
      illegally while a wall has been built around it
      * The Church is doing missionary work among youth
      * The teaching in the monastery violates Turkish laws
      * National Unity is destroyed
      * The church is a historic museum and should be not misused for praying
      * The monastery does not pay taxes

      Meanwhile, Bishop Samuel Aktas of St. Gabriel has
      issued a detailed report titled The Imminent
      Problems Facing the Syriac monastery of Mor
      Gabriel in Midyat, Turkey, while summarizing what
      he calls "alarming concerns" the monastery is
      facing. The report is also replying in detail to
      the false criminal accusation filed as lawsuits;
      in fact, the latter are a means to harass the monastery and its inhabitants.

      In order to investigate these and additional
      similar accusations, several court hearings are scheduled for December 2008:

      * On Wednesday December 3, 2008 Bishop
      Timotheos Samuel Aktas will report the court and
      argue to the absurd allegations submitted as
      lawsuit by of the neighboring villages. For
      instance, he is blamed to have destroyed parts of
      the monastery, namely the Church of the Holy
      Theodora and a mosque within the monastery.
      Everybody who is familiar with monastery knows
      that several years ago the Church of Theodora has
      been restored and is one of the most attractive parts of the monastery
      * On Friday, December 19, 2008: The court
      will continue hearings that began on November
      19th about the administrative borders of the
      monastery with its neighboring villages
      * On Wednesday, December 24, 2008 (Christmas
      Eve): The court will continue hearings that
      started on November 14th, regarding Land which is
      labeled as "forest" and that was confiscated by
      the State in pre-text of cadastral measurements.
      As a side note, it should be noted that Turkish
      Courts and Institutions knowingly disrespect
      Christmas Eve and schedule hearings on that day
      * On Wednesday, December 31, 2008: The court
      will deal with the wall that was built by the
      monastery administration to secure its land,
      while the neighboring villages falsely claim that
      the wall stands on "their ground" and hence needs to be demolished

      Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs)
      living in Europe and elsewhere along with their
      Church organizations are closing ranks and are
      showing strong solidarity with St. Gabriel, while
      initiating appeals to EU institutions and
      European Churches for help and support. Janet
      Abraham, former Vice Chair-lady of an
      International Human Rights Organization and Board
      member of the Tur Abdin Solidarity Group says
      "Assyrians across all denominations are concerned
      about the new quality of harassment on the
      remaining Assyrians in Tur Abdin and especially
      on St. Gabriel. While it seems that the false
      accusations against the monastery are purposely
      not blocked in the first place by the Turkish
      Institutions and dealt with in a bureaucratic and
      jurisdictional process to maintain pressure, the
      perpetrators are indirectly encouraged to
      escalate their claims further and further."

      A joint press release issued by the Assyrian
      Democratic Organization, Assyrian Chaldean Syriac
      Alliance and Syrian Orthodox Church of Göteborg,
      on November 26, stated "the head of the village
      Yayvantepe threatened to burn the monastery and
      raze it to the ground in front of the military
      personnel and the state prosecutor," with
      impunity. St. Gabriel monastery is regarded as
      the oldest religious center of the community for
      centuries; a threat to the monastery endangers
      the very existence of the remaining Christian minority.

      According to Abraham, the troubles of the St.
      Gabriel monastery have been already addressed in
      a German parliament speech on Foreign policy by
      Mrs. Erika Steinbach of the Christian Democratic
      Party, on September 17, 2008. Bernd Posselt, MEP,
      has submitted the matter to the European
      Parliament on October 9, 2008. In addition,
      various EU politicians expressed strong concern
      about the developments and promised or triggered
      support, among them Markus Ferber and Jens Holm.
      Germany's largest Newspapers have written
      articles highlighting the plight of St. Gabriel.

      In Germany, the highest Council of the Catholic
      bishops as well as the head of the Evangelical
      Churches promised support for the case as
      reaction to various appeals including from the
      Syrian Orthodox Church representatives. In reply
      to various requests by concerned Assyrians, the
      German Foreign Ministry replied on November 28
      that, "The German Embassy in Ankara like other
      European Union (EU) member states as well as the
      EU Commission Representative in Ankara are
      closely observing the development concerning St.
      Gabriel and are in regular contacts with Turkish
      Government offices as well as with lawyers of the
      monastery". Furthermore, "the situation of the
      non-Muslim minorities and the topic of religious
      freedom are essential parts of the political
      dialog, which the German Government conducts with
      Turkey, be it on bi-lateral level or be it on EU
      level." The German Foreign Ministry assures that
      they will follow the issues regarding St. Gabriel closely.

      Assyrians over the world are following the case
      with fierce attention and hope that the Turkish
      judiciary system, after its apparent adaptation
      to EU norms, will speak justice and the Turkish
      authorities will stop the village heads,
      neighbors to St. Gabriel, from bringing
      defamatory allegations against such an ancient
      center of Christianity in Turkey.

      Click here for more pictures of the St. Gabriel monastery.

      By Abdulmesih BarAbrahem

      © 2008, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved
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