Monday, November 14, 2011

Turkey's Armenians Reconsecrate 16th Century Church Building

Ethnic Armenians who grew up as Muslims baptized in Diyarbakir 

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

DIYARBAKIR, TURKEY (ANS) -- Compass Direct News (CDN) is reporting that just hours before a deadly 7.2 earthquake struck Turkey's southeast on Oct. 23, well over 3,000 visitors crowded into an ancient Armenian cathedral in nearby Diyarbakir, one of the largest cities in southeastern Turkey, for Sunday mass.
A photo of the Oct. 23 service at the restored St. Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church building (Photo: Compass Direct News)

"The mass was the first worship service in decades in the ancient St. Giragos Armenian Apostolic Church, which had fallen into serious disrepair in the early 1980s," said the CDN story. "Built 350 years ago and still the largest Armenian church building in the Middle East, it once served as the metropolitan cathedral of Diyarbakir.

"In a private ceremony the following day, 10 ethnic Armenians who had been raised as Sunni Muslims were baptized as Christians in the restored sanctuary. St. Giragos was virtually abandoned after the massacre and deportation of its congregants in 1915."

CDN went on to say that the building was confiscated during World War I as a headquarters for German army officers, used for a time as a stable, and later turned into a cotton warehouse in the 1960s.

According to Taraf newspaper columnist Markar Esayan, the church building was still intact until 1980, after which "because of hate . in modern times" it was attacked, looted and fell into disrepair, with just the walls and arched columns remaining.

Costing US$3.5 million, the church's two-year restoration project was funded largely by Armenian donations from Istanbul and abroad, although a third of the costs were donated by the Diyarbakir municipality.

CDN added that at the conclusion of the Sunday mass, Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir addressed the congregation, declaring first in Armenian, and then Kurdish, Turkish, English and Arabic: "Welcome to your home. You are not guests here; this is your home."

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Dan Wooding, 70, is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for 48 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and was, for ten years, a commentator, on the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC. He now hosts the weekly "Front Page Radio" show on KWVE in Southern California which is also carried throughout the United States. The program is also aired in Great Britain on Calvary Chapel Radio UK and also in Belize and South Africa. Besides this, Wooding is a host for His Channel Live, which is carried via the Internet to some 200 countries and also provides a regular commentary for Worship Life Radio on KWVE. You can follow Dan Wooding on Facebook under his name there or at ASSIST News Service. He is the author of some 44 books. Two of the latest include his aut obiography, "From Tabloid to Truth", which is published by Theatron Books. To order a copy, press this link. Wooding, who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, has also recently released his first novel "Red Dagger" which is available this link.

** You may republish this story with proper attribution.

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