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Re: [SORForum] SOC plundered in Amid/Diyarbakir

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  • Johnny Messo
    Dear B.P. Matthew and others who might be interested in reading it, Below you can find my (loose) translation of the German text (
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 21, 2003
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      Dear B.P. Matthew and others who might be interested in reading it,

      Below you can find my (loose) translation of the German text (http://www.suryoyo-online.org/news/muttergotteskirchegeplundert.html). Such reports are more than worth it to having translated them.

      The Syriac-Orthodox St. Mary Church plundered in Diyarbakir


      SOLNews � Diyarbakir (9.1.03). In the night of Monday 6 on Tuesday 7 January 2003, the St. Mary Church in Diyarbakir, also known as �Meryem Ana Kilisesi� in Turkish, had been plundered by Muslims; cf. the first picture, which was taken from a Western perspective. The actual perpetrators, who first broke in and subsequently caused great damages to the Church, are hitherto unknown.  


      According to the information given by the teacher (malfono) Saliba A�is, who resides in the Church itself, to Suryoyo Online (www.suryoyo-online.org), the pillagers had stolen valuable liturgical objects. Among the stolen objects were:

      • The great 18th century �Gospel Book / Ewangelyun,� which usually stands in the place of the altar (madbho) � standing in the midst of the second picture. It is handwritten and covered with pure silver;
      • Three crosses of silver, dating from the 17th century;
      • A very old icon of St. Mary, the God-Bearer (yoldath Aloho / Theotokos), that stood above the grave of the famous 12th century Syriac theologian and metropolitan Dionysios Bar Salibi (d. 1171);
      • Two rare 18th century liturgical vessels, viz. an out of silk crafted chalice and a gold covered plate (see the third and fourth pictures of the wooden altar, where the aforementioned crosses and vessels are displayed).

      Other sacred icons and paintings were, according to Saliba A�is, thrown on the ground and seriously damaged. The bandits penetrated into the church after they climbed on the external wall of stone, of which one never had thought that it would be an option to enter the church, and sawed off the strips of metal in the window of the Church. The act was discovered early in the morning of Tuesday 7 January when the Priest of the Church, Father Yusuf Akbulut, wanted to start with the regular morning prayers. The local authorities were informed immediately thereafter.  

      The Syriac community of Diyarbakir, as well as the metropolitan of Tur-�Abdin, Timotheos Samuel Aktas who resides in the Saint (Mor) Gabriel convent, were sincerely worried after they heard about the plundering of the Church. Once again they were remembered by their insecure future in an environment that is strongly Islamized today. The readers should be reminded that it was about two years ago (2001) that in the very same Syriac community a similar political motivated action took place, where the aforementioned Priest, Yusuf Akbulut, was brought into the Turkish law court.


      The excuse for capturing this spiritual father was essentially his confirmation � itself being a reply after a shrewd answer of a Turkish journalist � of the Genocide that had taken place in 1915 in present-day Turkey: �not only against the Armenians,� as many people are well aware of, �but also against the Arameans� (who are also known as Syriacs/Suryoye in Aramaic), replied the Father. After the journalists had recorded his expressions on tape, they called the father in their report, which they published in the famous Turkish newspaper H�rriyet, a �traitor among us�; how ironically actually, �H�rriyet� means �Freedom,� but these journalists obviously seem to have not understand what �freedom� (of expression, for example) really means; not mentioning their intentions of arranging an interview, where they brought up the issue in question and after which they term the interviewer, a religious representative of a weakened ethnic minority having roots in �Turkey� much older than the �Turks� themselves, as �a traitor among us.� Consequently, with this report the Turkish population was provoked against the relatively few Arameans in Turkey. After a long time of many negotiations, supervised by foreign politicians and human rights activists, the Priest was finally released. However, after his release he was still being watched by the Turkish authorities and journalists. Each Sunday, during the Holy Masses, the sermons of this Priest were controlled by Intelligence Services (of whom some were even armed with weapons). One wonders, what were they exactly looking for, and with what intentions?


      Another example is the Turkish newspaper �Aksam,� wherein the Aramean Christians were labelled as separatists on the 27th of June 2002. They published an ethnographic map of Tur-�Abdin, copied from the pictorial book of the Austrian Professor Hans Hollerweger, and asserted that the Arameans of the Tur-�Abdin region wanted to split themselves from Turkey; that explains the (false) accusation �separatists.� On charges of the Syriac bishop of Tur-�Abdin, the radical newspaper �Aksam� was found guilty by the Istanbul law court at 06.09.2002.     


      Tur-�Abdin is an ancient home place of Arameans, which is situated in the current region of south-eastern Turkey; even the pre-Christian Assyrian sources, in which this region is known as �Kashiari,� corroborate this fact. Diyarbakir, on the other hand, is strictly speaking not part of the Tur-�Abdin itself, but it nevertheless belongs to the same region and it is furthermore in many ways united with Tur-�Abdin.


      It is noteworthy to state that �Diyarbakir� is currently the Turkish name for �Amid(a),� being the capital of the Aramean kingdom Bet-Zamani from the 13th century B.C. onwards. �Amid� is the name used in the Syriac sources, which also testify to the fact that it once was the seat of the Syriac-Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and thus being a Syriac or Aramean stronghold that produced many famous Syriac theologians and Patriarchs; some of them found their final resting place in the St. Mary Church. Besides, there are many relics in this Church, such as the bones of the apostle Thomas and St. Jacob of Sarug (d. 521).


      Undisputedly, this ancient Church can be reckoned to the most ancient (Syriac) church buildings in Mesopotamia. Its Christian building foundations go back into the third century; some time before, it was in all likelihood a pagan temple that goes back to pre-Christian times (the two lion heads that can be found in the doorway to the Diakonikon, gives us this impression). In the course of time St. Mary�s was sacked and destroyed many times by foreign rulers and raiding Muslims. In its heydays the Church functioned as an active pilgrimage centre for the region. It is probable that the current Turkish name of the city can be derived from �Deir Bakira,� which means �Church of the Virgin [Mary]� in Arabic. It is here also that a relic of the holy cross as well as one of the few ancient Bible manuscripts, written on parchment and dated to the 6th century, can be found.       


      In the course of time, Diyarbakir gradually lost its native Syriac-Aramean population. In 1870, for example, there still lived approximately 13,500 Arameans in this city and the surrounding villages. In the �Year of the [Islamic] Sword,� however, as the Arameans remember the massacres of 1915, 5.379 human beings were brutally murdered. Thus, in 1966, there were merely 1,000 people left; those who managed to escape the slaughter, either died from starvation or were deported or they themselves fled from the region.


      Today, however, no more than four Syriac-Aramean families are left, among which the Priest (he actually takes care of all the Christian denominations there). Others emigrated to Istanbul and into the Western Diaspora. Especially sad is to see how the respectful dead people are dishonoured by the decision to cut off a part of the Syriac cemetery, where mostly the graves of Arameans of Diyarbakir had been put, and transform it into a street. The protests of the Syriac community remain hitherto unsuccessful.      


      ----Original Message Follows----
      Reply-To: SOR-Forum@yahoogroups.com
      To: SOR-Forum@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [SORForum] SOC plundered in Amid/Diyarbakir
      Date: Sun, 19 Jan 2003 05:46:46 +0000 (GMT)
      Can I get an English translation of this report.
      Johnny Messo wrote:
      Dear all,
      Please check http://www.suryoyo-online.org/news/muttergotteskirchegeplundert.html to become aware of a very sad report.

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