SHAFAQNA- The construction of Istanbul’s new Syriac Orthodox church will be completed in two years, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at the foundation-laying ceremony of the first new church in Turkey since the founding of the republic in 1923.
According to france24, the church in the Istanbul suburb of Yesilkoy will serve the 17,000-strong Syriac Christian community, which is also paying for the new building.
“It is the Turkish republic’s duty to meet the need for space to worship for the Syriac community, who are the ancient children of this geography,” Erdogan said during the stone-laying ceremony.
Erdogan had ordered the Istanbul metropolitan municipality to find space for the building in 2009 while he was prime minister.
Syriac Christians are part of the eastern Christian tradition and pray in Aramaic, which Jesus is believed to have spoken.
It is being built on land belonging to the Latin Catholic Church and which is part of an Italian cemetery, the head of the Beyoglu Virgin Mary Syriac Orthodox Church Foundation in Istanbul, Sait Susin said.
Christians make up around 0.2 percent of the total population in Turkey.
But Erdogan sought to extend a hand to other communities in the country of 82 million, saying “don’t forget, this country, this state belongs to everyone”.
The new church will mark the first time a church is built from scratch in the Republic-era. The church will be constructed on an empty lot belonging to the municipality near the Italian Cemetery in Yeşilköy neighborhood of Bakırköy district, with a high concentration of the Syriac community, dailysabah reported.
Assyrians are a community that traces its heritage back to ancient Mesopotamia. They Christians are part of the eastern Christian tradition and pray in Aramaic, which Jesus is believed to have spoken.
There are 25,000 Syriac Christians in Turkey, approximately 18,000 of whom live in Istanbul, according to unofficial figures.