Friday, December 11, 2009

Priest of Assyrian Church Threatened in Turkey

Armenian Weekly 10 December 2009
By Ramazan Yavuz & Serdar Sunar

Following a referendum banning mosque minarets in Switzerland, three unidentified persons visited the 1,750-year-old Assyrian/Syriac Church of Virgin Mary in Diyarbakir, Turkey, and allegedly threatened the priest, Yusuf Akbulut, by saying, "Switzerland is banning minarets and we will ban bell towers to you. You will demolish the bell tower by next Friday.”

Akbulut informed the police of the threat to demolish the bell towers. He is now receiving protection by the police, and made the following statement:

"Last Friday, i.e. on the 4th of this month [December], my church and I were threatened. Three persons in their forties visited the church at 14:00 hours last Friday. They knocked on the door of my house inside the church and asked me to come outside. In the courtyard of the church, these three persons that I do not know asked me if the church had a bell tower. When I told them that it did, they said, "You will demolish this bell tower. Switzerland is banning minarets and we will ban bell towers to you. You will demolish this bell tower by next Friday.” When I told them that this was a historic church with an ancient bell tower and that the foundations (directorate) and the state would react, they said for the second time, "Go and complain to whoever you want. This bell tower will not remain here. We will take the necessary action,” and left. Then I filed a complaint to the police. Now the police are seeking the three persons who threatened me by checking the camera records.”

Noting that he would not destroy the 600-year-old church bell in any way, Akbulut stated that the minaret ban in Switzerland had nothing to do with him, and added: "We, the Syriacs, have been living in these territories for 6-7,000 years. We have a deep-rooted history. Who can dare demolish this bell tower by asserting the minaret ban in Switzerland as a pretext? We do not approve of the minaret ban. Switzerland should let them construct minarets in mosques. Everyone has the right to worship freely. We all pray to God.”

Noting that five families resided in the church, and around 10 other Christian families were in the city center of Diyarbakir, Akbulut said, "As the Syriac community, for centuries we led a peaceful life with the other people residing on these territories. We never did any harm to anyone. It is very wrong to hold us accountable for the minaret ban in Switzerland.” (...)

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