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Death Watch

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  • John Kochukutty
    I came across this posting at one of the sites. Could this happen to Orthodox Christians in India one day? with prayers John
    Message 1 of 1039 , Jan 28, 2003
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      I came across this posting at one of the sites. Could this happen to
      Orthodox Christians in India one day?
      with prayers
      John
      ===========================================================================================================================================Death Watch
      One of the world's earliest Christian cultures totters on the edge of
      extinction.
      by Thomas C. Oden

      Our Turkish-speaking drivers were taking us through the Fertile
      Crescent, that crossroads of great civilizations, but it did not
      appear very fertile. On this visit to eastern Turkey, religious
      freedom advocate Paul Marshall and I saw little cultivated land and a
      striking level of depopulation. We met the only two monks remaining
      in the monastery of the village of Sare (or Sarikoy). They were
      resigned, calm, and ready for the apocalypse.

      Syriac-speaking Christians in this area have persisted through more
      than a dozen centuries of Muslim, Ottoman, and now Turkish rule. They
      languish between the secularizing government of the Republic of
      Turkey and an Islamic culture that views them as heathen outsiders.
      The government has long given them minimal "freedom of worship" while
      decisively restricting property rights for local congregations. Nor
      do authorities allow them any avenues of new growth—communication,
      speech, normal press freedom, or economic development.

      Syriac-Aramaic comes as close as any living language to what Jesus
      spoke. It is the liturgical and poetic language of these Christians.
      Yet authorities forbid Christians on Turkey's southeastern border
      with Syria, Iraq, and Iran to teach that language—nor can their
      schoolchildren learn any subject in it. Christians in Syria, by
      contrast, legally teach and worship in that language.

      Besides the secular and Islamic opposition, modern forces also
      threaten. Dams for electric power and irrigation are filling up the
      great valley of the Tigris, threatening to submerge lands—including
      churches and monasteries—on which Christian families have lived for
      more than a millennium. In any case, as in the rest of Turkey,
      Christians cannot buy property.

      In short, the government would be pleased to see the Christian
      communities quietly disappear altogether. Christians have been caught
      in the middle of a war between the government and the Kurds. Now it
      matters little to the government that the Hezbollah as well as the
      Kurds are harassing them.

      Christians abroad, meanwhile, know little of their life-and-death
      struggle.

      First Christian Generations

      The Turkish government has told the Christian villages, in effect:
      You cannot have seminaries in your language. You cannot repair your
      churches. Or if you do, you must do it without any help and under
      local Turkish government surveillance.

      Heirs of the ancient Chaldeans and Assyrians, today these Christians
      affiliate mainly with the Syrian Orthodox Church, with separate
      church patriarchates in Damascus: one Jacobite, the other Antiochene.
      The Christian population has dwindled to nearly nothing in villages
      that have called Christ Lord for well over 15 centuries.
      No one doubts that there are viable arguments for continuity between
      these ethnic Syriac-speaking Christians and the earliest Christian
      beginnings. Before Christ, there were Jewish communities in this area
      in which the first generations of Christians eventually grew.
      One of the major Christian centers of learning, hymnody, and
      monasticism during the fourth and fifth centuries a.d. flourished at
      Urfa, previously called Edessa (the ancient Haran). The fathers of
      the Edessa churches, along with their scholars, hymn-writers and
      poets, were lauded and quoted throughout the Christian world. By the
      seventh century, dozens of monasteries—some of them with up to 700
      monks—covered the nearby hills. Few Christian families remain there.
      In Nisibis (now Nusaybin), an ancient city in the upper Euphrates
      valley (on the river Djada), the Christian community dates back to
      the second century. A fourth-century church there was locked up and
      abandoned shortly after World War I, when the community fled south
      into Syria. For 60 years there had been no Christians in this church.
      Now the Syriac diocese has sent a Christian family from one of the
      surrounding villages into Nisibis. They live in a little apartment in
      the church and keep it from falling apart.

      In the church crypt lies the tomb of Jacob of Nisibis, from whom
      comes the term Jacobite. Representing Syriac Christianity, he
      attended the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325. Jacob was the teacher of
      the great poet, Ephrem the Syrian, whom John Wesley called "that man
      of the broken heart."

      This ancient church, once so important in Christian history, now sits
      alone in an entirely Muslim culture. I turned my gaze from the
      sarcophagus in the crypt to the richly decorated arches, then to the
      geometric design on the lectern. Marshall, a Senior Fellow at Freedom
      House's Center for Religious Freedom, stood with me by the silent
      crypt of this deserted church dating back to a.d. 359.

      Suddenly, our driver broke into song, an ancient hymn of the church.
      His voice was strong and sure, filling the empty stones with a flood
      of music, without being prompted.

      We asked him what the words meant. He said the lyrics came from the
      great Ephrem:

      Listen, my chicks have flown,
      left their nest, alarmed
      By the eagle. Look,
      where they hide in dread!
      Bring them back in peace!

      This church had nurtured Ephrem, the greatest of the Syriac
      theologians. After being expelled from Nisibis, he spent the last 10
      years of his life (363–73) in exile in Edessa (Urfa).

      The Nisibis church and others in the area deserve to be introduced to
      the rest of the world. Yet they remain virtually inaccessible.
      Christians especially should have the opportunity to understand the
      area's history, poetry, liturgy, and the early growth of monasticism
      here.

      An armed group, the Hezbollah, still operates in the area. This is
      not exactly the same Hezbollah that operates in the Middle East but
      is related to them. It has frequently attacked Christian villages in
      these areas and sought to drive them out. There may be only a few
      thousand Christians left in southeastern Turkey.

      Caught in a Vise

      This community is coming to a decisive moment: either great courage
      or complete collapse. Some sense of solidarity with the outside
      Christian world would help. Their plight cries out for understanding
      by art historians, museum curators, theologians, political
      scientists, and sociologists, as well as concerned laypeople.

      If Christians abroad began to take an active interest in them, either
      through business enterprise or by visiting, empathizing, and getting
      to know them personally, the balance could shift. The displaced
      Christians of Upper Mesopotamia who are now in Europe might begin to
      come back. That could encourage economic development.

      The aggressive campaigns of the ministry of tourism notwithstanding,
      the Turkish government has grossly neglected these ancient Christian
      sites. The tourist literature nowhere mentions them. Instead, the
      government has supervised the demise of numerous Christian villages
      or passively watched them deteriorate.

      Yet encouraging the government to develop area tourism would likely
      be more persuasive than moral arguments for freedom of religion. Some
      churches here have remained in use largely without interruption since
      the fourth century. As Freedom House's Marshall remarked, this whole
      area is a museum—an ancient Christian museum.

      The possibility of a new wave of tourism appears very remote without
      encouragement from Western political, academic, and church interests.
      Through a kind of passive-aggressive neglect, the government denies
      access to all except those with insider connections. If I were a
      Muslim, I would be encouraged to go on Hajj to Mecca. But if
      Christians want to go to Nisibis, someone with a badge is standing in
      the path, saying, "Show me your invitation."

      Eastern monasticism, music, liturgy and theology thrived here and
      spread to much of the remaining Christian world. These sites contain
      a precious heritage that belongs not just to the Turkish government.
      It belongs to Christians everywhere.

      ---------------------------------------------
      From the desk of the moderators

      The same article was posted in this forum as message No. 1775 by Mr. Mike
      with web link.
      We are reposting it as per the request of the originator of this post.
      In Our Lords Love
      Forum Moderators
      SOCM-FORUM
    • Jaison
      Dear all I could not open this controversial letter, Anybody can help in this regard regards Jaison
      Message 1039 of 1039 , Sep 21, 2011
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        Dear all
        I could not open this controversial letter, Anybody can help in this regard
        regards
        Jaison

        --- In SOCM-FORUM@yahoogroups.com, Malankara Voice wrote:
        >
        > 1. Full Text of the controversial letter written by
        > Rev.P C Yohannan Ramban (Pampady Dayara), questioning the
        > integrity of Yuhanon Milithios (Trichur)
        > http://www.geocities.com/malankarav5/20030203YohannanRambanMilithios2.htm
        >
        > For more Links visit:-
        > http://www.geocities.com/malankarav5/news_section.htm
        > http://malankaravoice.cjb.net
        >
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