Patriarch's Letter about our Church in Tor Abdeen
Tuesday, December 09, 2008 -
A Letter from Our Patriarch H. H. Ignatius Zakka 1 Iwas
Regarding our Church in Tor Abdeen
To whom in may concern,
Greetings! We are writing this letter to bring to your kind attention the recent developments that is taking place in connection with our Mor Gabriel Monastery, also called Deyrulumur, in Midyat, Turkey. As Your Excellency might be aware of, the Mor Gabriel Monastery, established in 397.AD, is a very important historic monument and a holy place for the entire Christendom and particularly for the Syriac Christians all over the world. This has been a religious place of lofty regards and a centre of high reverence for the Syriac people all through out its history. It was owned and cherished by the Syriac church fathers, and the monastery enjoyed full freedom of ownership of its land and properties from the time of its inception. Even the people of other religions upheld in high esteem and respected this institution as a holy place for all. For most of the non-Turkish origin Syriac Christians, the first thing, that, the very name: Turkey, immediately bringing to their mind, with reverence to the esteemed land of Turkey, is about their holy monasteries in Turkey, like the Mor Gabriel Monastery of Midyat, Deir-ul-Zaafran of Mardin, the Holy place: Antioch etc.
But some of the disputes and false claims that have recently arisen regarding the territorial ownership of the monastery deserve serious attention of all. This very sensitive and touching issue is imparting much sorrow and anxiety to us and to the entire Syriac communities all over the world. As has been detailed in the attached report of the bishop of the Monastery, Metropolitan Mor Timotheos Samuel Aktas, the Cadastral Survey Department and some misguided people of the surrounding villages, is coming up with unjustifiable claims about the property rights of the monastery. It is a very sad as well as very serious matter, that, even after producing enough concrete proofs and solid supporting governmental documental evidences to prove the historic rights of ownership of the land and properties of the monastery, the present Cadstral Survey Department and other government departments are going ahead blindly with their false claims and proceedings regarding the boundaries of the land of the monastery. The claims of the department are absolutely against the prevailing rights of the minority communities, now prevalent in the esteemed country of Turkey and these are against the International treaties and agreements reached with Turkey.
Also the ill motivated and illogical allegations and complaints of some of the nearby villagers, as detailed in the attached report are also to be considered very serious infringements, and as an attempt to breach the religious freedom, and putting at risk, the peace and harmony enjoyed by the minority communities in Turkey. Now, at a time, when many of the Syriac Christians of Turkish origin in diaspora, who had to flee their homeland for fear of their life in the difficult tides of times, want to return to Turkey – (the settlement at the village ‘Kaphra’ in southern Turkey is a good example for that), this sort of incursions and attacking mentality brings serious concern, fear and disappointment in the minds of them. Moreover this will fade and disfigure the good image that the nation Turkey is achieving.
So, Your Excellency, please consider this issue with proper importance and through your reputed office, we would like to bring to the attention of the esteemed government of Turkey, to take some urgent, decisive and fruitful actions in order to safeguard the rights of the Syriac Christian communities in Turkey, and to provide enough protection to them from the incursive forces that endanger the life and freedom of the Syriac minorities in Turkey, that they had enjoyed since the inception of Christianity in the first century AD.
With thanks and sincere regards,
Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Patriarch of Antioch and All the East
Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church