The re-opening of an abandoned church in Mardin, SE Turkey, just 30 miles from Islamic State territory, is a symbol of “universal religious freedom”, worshippers were told at the renovated building’s dedication service on 7 November.
Local politicians and leaders of all denominations were at the reopening ceremony “as a sign of democracy and coexistence”. Persecution and migration forced the church’s closure 55 years ago.
The rundown building was transferred to a Protestant congregation by the Syriac church, one of the oldest branches of Christianity, which has churches in Mardin dating back to the fourth century.
Protestantism and Assyrian Orthodoxy had been bitter rivals in Mardin, but, as World Watch Monitor reported in April, the handover marked the first steps of reconciliation between the denominations.
The renovated church is one of the few legally recognised Protestant churches in Turkey. Protestants usually meet in homes or rented buildings.
Mardin Co-Mayor, Februniye Akyol – herself the first Christian mayor of a Turkish city – said: “While our historic churches are being bombed and destroyed across the border, a church … coming to life in Mardin after so many years of inactivity is a message for the whole world”.