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Church of Norway to Send Two Observers to Assyrian Monastery Trial in Turkey

Two Church of Norway representatives will be present at a court case regarding the future of one of the world's most ancient monasteries, Mar Gabriel in Eastern Turkey.

This week, on Wednesday 11 February 2009, the future of the ancient Syrian Orthodox monastery Mar Gabriel, with traditions back to the fifth century, will be determined. It is located near Midyat in Eastern Turkey.

The Church of Norway will be represented by General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit and Attorney Helge Aarseth. The two will at the same time represent the World Council of Churches and The Lutheran World Federation, respectively.

What is scheduled to happen on 11 February is that the outcome of a series of ongoing legal processes, conducted simultaneously, will become clear. These processes concern the right to land properties cultivated by the monastery for sixteen hundred years. The court case concerns a conflict which involves the monastery over against local land owners and the Turkish government regarding rights to confiscate the land in question.

The case has attracted international attention, particularly among European churches. The purpose of the presence of church representatives is to show solidarity with the Syrian Orthodox Christians. It is also important to let the Turkish authorities know that the world is paying attention to this development and that obligations of human rights must be respected.

If Mar Gabriel disappears, this will mean the end not only of one of the world's oldest monasteries, but also of the last significant remnant of Syrian Orthodox presence in Turkey.

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