The Conference of European Churches (CEC) asks the European institutions to protect the Syriac Orthodox Mor Gabriel monastery in Turkey. It urges the Turkish government to prevent the expropriation of the monastery and its land and to respect the right to freely practice the Christian religion within the monastery. CEC criticizes the lack of legal protection of Christian churches in Turkey which leads to their continued deprivation.
The Mor Gabriel monastery is one of the oldest active Christian monasteries worldwide. It was founded in the year 397 AD and is located in the Tur Abdin region in southeast Turkey. The monastery belongs to the Syriac Orthodox Church and is headed by Archbishop Timotheos Samuel Aktas. About 60 monks, nuns and boarding school students, who attend the surrounding schools, live in the monastery. Around 70,000 guests visit the monastery every year.
Since this summer CEC has received reports on the occupation of land which belongs to the monastery by Kurdish and Arab villagers in the neighbourhood. A cadastral recording which is currently implemented in the region does not take into account the historical ownership rights of the monastery and its community and threatens the continued existence of the monastery. Moreover, the residents of the monastery are accused of violating the national laws of Turkey with their religious practice. These allegations are rejected by the monastery.
A decision on the allegations against the monastery will be cased by the competent court in December or January. Court dates are scheduled on 19th and 31 December 2008, and 16th January 2009. "The Conference of European Churches is deeply concerned about the threat to the survival of the monastery through these procedures", stated the Rev. Rüdiger Noll, Director of the Church and Society Commission and Associated General Secretary of CEC. "CEC invites political leaders to do everything in their power to protect the continued existence of the monastery", he added.
Conference of European Churches