Tuesday, December 19, 2023
Christians in Turkey
For a long time, Syriac Orthodox Christians were religiously persecuted in Turkey. Now, more and more are returning to their historic homeland in the southeast of the country. Among them is a nun who wants to revitalize the village where she grew up. Hatune Dogan, a Syriac Orthodox nun, was born in İzbırak in 1970. The 270 Christian families who still lived in the village back then later fled. That included Sister Hatune, who left her home in the 1980s with her parents and nine siblings. Southeastern Turkey was the scene of a military conflict between the Turkish army and Kurdish PKK militias - with Christians caught between the two sides. Syriac Orthodox Christians in Turkey are believed to have been one of the earliest Christian communities. Over the centuries, the group - with its own customs and language - came under repeated attacks in a predominantly Muslim region. Most decided to flee. Around 300,000 Syriac Orthodox Christians now live outside Turkey, primarily in Europe and the United States. Almost half of the diaspora has found a new home in Germany, like the Dogan family. Several years ago, Sister Hatune resolved to return to her home village of İzbırak to fulfill a promise to her dying father and renovate the old family home. She is determined to breathe new life into the village. Simon Üzel was 17 years old when he and his family fled the Turkish village of Öğündük for southwest Germany in 1990. Now, he's among those contemplating a move back home. Whenever it feels safe to do so, he travels to his old village - a place that is never truly far from mind.