JERUSALEM, Israel – As Americans are celebrating their nation’s founding, with all its associated freedoms, Turkish Christians are facing increasing persecution at the hand of the nation’s Islamist president.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confiscated another 50 Syriac churches, including the 1,600-year-old Mor Gabriel Monastery. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic used during the first millennium across the Middle East and Asia.
Erdogan’s most recent seizure, under the auspices of the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) took place in Mardin province, Word Press reported.
According to the report, the Mardin governorate was compelled to transfer its churches, monasteries, cemeteries and other of the Syriac community’s assets to Turkey’s national treasury, which then transferred ownership to the Diyanet.
Among the state’s seizures is the historic Mor Gabriel Monastery, one of the world’s oldest ancient religious centers, dating to the 4th century A.D.
An appeal to halt the transfer of some 30 title deed registries by the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation was turned down.
Erdogan’s steady encroachment on the religious rights of all minorities in Turkey has intensified since a national referendum awarded him almost exclusive power over the country.
In 2016, Erdogan took control of six churches, home to Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox congregations, in Diyarbakir. One of the churches was said to be more than 1,700 years old.
“The government didn’t take over these pieces of property in order to protect them,” Ahmet Guvener, pastor of the Diyarbakir Protestant Church, said at the time. “They did so to acquire them.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times reports on a protest march involving thousands led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party.
Kilicdaroglu, who understands that in today’s Turkey, he and others could be hauled off to jail, said, “If we have to pay a price, we will pay it.”
The marchers are protesting Erdogan’s arrest and imprisonment of some 50,000 Turkish citizens, including 240 journalists more than a dozen lawmakers, plus academics, teachers and civil servants.
The march, which began two weeks ago in the capital city of Ankara, was initiated by the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Organizers are hoping thousands more will join the last leg of the 250-mile protest march, slated to wind up next Sunday in Istanbul.
This article originally appeared on CBN News, July 3, 2017, and reposted with permission.