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Turkey Plans to Open Its First-ever Newly-built Assyrian Church
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St. Efrem Syriac Ancient Orthodox Church, in Istanbul. ( AA)
The last shortcomings of the opening of the first church in the history of the Republic of Türkiye are being fixed. The Mor Efrem Syriac Ancient Orthodox Church, which is being built in Istanbul's Yeşilköy district is planned to be opened within two months.

In 2019, the foundation was laid with a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to entertain the request of the Syriac community to allocate a place of worship to them.

President of the Istanbul Syriac Ancient Foundation, Sait Susin said, "Feverish work is being carried out to eliminate the last deficiencies to open the first-ever church of the Turkish republic."

Sharing the details of the church building Susin explained: "The first floor is reserved for the cultural hall where the congregation would gather, and ceremonies such as baptisms, condolences and weddings, as well as meetings and conferences, would be held and on the ground floor prayers and rituals will be held, there is a bishop's living area, guest rooms and a parking lot. The chandeliers and sound systems in the cultural hall are being installed in the coming days."

This will be the second church belonging to approximately 17,000 Assyrians living in the city. Susin explained that the church built in Tarlabaşı in 1844 did not meet the needs of the Assyrians in Istanbul, so they tried to pray in 6 different churches belonging to fellow congregations. Due to the difference in rituals and time, it was hard for them to perform their prayers.

"Owing to this need we made a request to our government for the allocation of a separate place for worship mainly in Yeşilköy, Bakırköy and Florya, where the Assyrian community is densely populated, we wanted the allocation to be in Bakırköy, where our congregation is concentrated, to build our church. The (former) Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Kadir Topbaş supported this cause and allotted a space in the Latin Catholic Cemetery," Susin outlined.

Susin noted that the construction was allowed with the intervention of the authorities, including Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

Reminding that there were discussions in the public about the church being built on graves, Susin stated, "The church is not built on the graves but in the empty spaces of an area of 2,700 square meters (29,062.56 square feet). We did preliminary work before starting the construction, in case there was a lost cemetery."

Emphasizing that the church was built in accordance with today's conditions based on historical church examples, Susin said: "We have countless churches in Mardin, the southeast and the Middle East built a thousand years ago. There is important stonemasonry in all our churches from Mardin and the eastern cities of Türkiye, that stone is a widely spoken and workable stone, but we could not use it here. Rather, we tried to make a church suitable for today's conditions by using the characteristics of Syriac churches," he added.

The church cost about $4 million funded with donations by the community, but also benefited from the value-added tax (VAT) exemption applied in places of worship for the fund established in this regard. This is the first church built from scratch in the history of the republic. "There are some churches that have been built in the history of the republic, some of them are either restored or about to be demolished. It is the first time that a church has been officially built. It is a great pride for us, we are thankful to the state institutions, and above all, to President Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it would not have been possible without his support," Susin maintained.

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