President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Sunday, inaugurated the first church built with government backing in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkiye’s 100-year history as a post-Ottoman State, state media agency, Anadolu, reports.
According to the report, the Mor Ephrem Syriac Orthodox Church’s opening marks an important cultural and political moment for both Turkiye and its powerful leader.
Erdogan drew widespread condemnation during his two-decade rule for converting ancient churches into mosques and making Islamic conservatism into a leading social force.
He has always countered that he was simply restoring the rights of pious Muslims in the staunchly secular republic founded by Field Marshal, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1923.
Erdogan laid the first stone for the church’s construction for Istanbul’s 17,000-strong Assyrian Christians in 2019.
“We are seeing big problems today across many parts of the world,” Erdogan told the faithful as all-out war raged between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza.
“But the solidarity shown here today — I find it very important,” Erdogan said.
“We always protect the oppressed against the oppressor. That is our duty.”
Assyrian Christianity traces its history to communities that lived in the first century AD in a region stretching from south-eastern Turkiye to Syria and Iraq.
Its main church moved from the Turkish city of Mardin to Damascus in 1932.