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Religion Today Blog Christian Blog and Commentary

1,700-Year-Old Turkish Church is Damaged in Fighting between Government Forces and Kurdish Separatists

  • Veronica Neffinger
    Religious persecution, missions, Christianity around the world
  • 2016 Feb 05
  • Comments

A 1,700-year-old church in Turkey has been damaged by recent fighting between Turkish government forces and Kurdish separatists.


Christian Today reports that St. Mary Church, a Syriac Orthodox church in the southeastern Turkish city of Diyarbakir, was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade during fighting on Jan. 28.


“It was like a war zone... Our house was shaking and we thought it would collapse," said Fr. Yusuf Akbulut, the priest of the church, who lives on the church’s grounds with his family.


"We wouldn't have left the church. But when we looked [on the street] and saw that land mines and rockets were exploding non-stop, we knew that we couldn't stay," he told World Watch Monitor.


Akbulut reported that he and his family were staying in a hotel when he got word that St. Mary was accused of being involved with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).


A cache of ammunition and explosives were reportedly found on the site of the church, but Akbulut maintains that he did not put it there, and it was likely placed there after he and his family had evacuated the premises.


In early January a delegation came to the war-torn Diyarbakir to attempt to unite warring factions. 


“We came to beg all parties to take steps towards peace to escape from this spiral of violence," said Ihsan Ozbek, leader of Turkey's Association of Protestant Churches.


Turkish forces have reportedly killed 500 PKK fighters since December. 



Publication date: February 5, 2016