01/16/2021, 09.47
TURKEY
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Germus, an ancient Armenian church used for a barbecue party

A man lit a fire and cooked kebabs in the church of the Virgin Mary in Germuş. The building dates back to the 1800s, but has been unavailable to Christians for over a cebtury, subject to excavations and looting. The condemnation of local groups and opposition deputies. In Turkey, hostility towards Armenia and the Armenians continues, considered unwanted neighbors, intensifies.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - A man organized and publicized a barbeque inside the historic 19th century Armenian church of Sourp Asdvadzadzin, in the village of Germuş, 10 km north-east of Urfa, in southeastern Turkey. At the beginning of the 1900s the village was made up of more than a third of Christians, especially Armenians, later decimated by the genocide or emigrated abroad to save themselves from the slaughter.

The church of the Virgin Mary of Germuş is in ruins due to illicit excavations that have taken place for a long time in the area and for the looting carried out by bounty hunters looking for ancient treasures; for almost a century it has been unavailable to the local Christian community, which has repeatedly asked for its return to be restored and used again as a place of worship. The barbecue (in the photo) set up in recent days is just the latest example of the havoc that is taking place against the structure.

According to some testimonies and images posted on social media, a kebab seller cooked liver and served it to the people present "at the event". The "barbecue party", which had a wide echo among the internet users of the area, raised a wave of indignant comments, especially among Christians. Unanimous condemnations also come from local exponents of the pro-Kurdish opposition party HDP, including the Armenian-born MP Garo Paylan.

Some residents have appealed to the local administration and the central government to protect the historic church and return it to its original use, not to be used as a backdrop for a barbecue or parties of a different nature.

Ubeyit İnci, a local Christian, confirms that "we are devastated by the treasure hunters" who dig and plunder. "We protect - he adds - this cultural heritage with our efforts [...] We want the church to be restored, protecting it from attacks by treasure hunters and the exploits of those who use it for different purposes".

It is another blow to the Christian community in Turkey’s history and traditions, after last year’s conversions to mosques of the ancient Christian basilicas - then museums in the early 1900s under Ataturk - of Hagia Sophia and Chora.

The controversial decisions were made in the context of the "nationalism and Islam" policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an attempt to hide the economic crisis and maintain power. Following the presidential decree that decreed its transformation, the Islamic authorities covered the images of Jesus, frescoes and icons that testify to the Christian roots with a white curtain both in Chora and in Hagia Sophia.

The hostile climate towards Christians, especially Armenians, also emerges from the results of a survey entitled "Research on trends in Turkey", conducted by the Kadir Has University in Istanbul, according to which fewer and fewer people accept to have Armenian neighbors.

Furthermore, Armenia is considered among the first three nations in the world to pose a threat to the Turks. When asked "I don't want to be close to ...", 47.6% of the respondents answered the Armenians, while the Greeks are in second place with 45.2%. Only 11.8% of the people interviewed agree to have Armenian neighbors.

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