ASIA/TURKEY - Ancient Christian cemetery desecrated in the Tur Abdin region

Tuesday, 5 July 2022 middle east   oriental churches   local churches   religious minorities   memory

Yemişli (Agenzia Fides) - Hundreds of desecrated tombs, with mortal remains and funerary objects scattered in the surrounding land. This is the scene faced by the Christians of Yemişli, a village in the south-eastern Turkish province of Mardin, on the occasion of their last visit to the cemetery to honor the memory of their ancestors.
The impious profanation - reported by Turkish newspapers such as Yeni Yaşam Gazetesi - was discovered on Wednesday, June 29, the day in which the liturgical memory of Saints Peter and Paul is celebrated. The cemetery chapel, dedicated to the two Holy Apostles, was erected in 1967, in the center of a funeral area which also includes tombs that date back to the first Christian millennium. Every year, on June 29, the Christians still present in the area - mostly belonging to Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean communities - go to the cemetery to celebrate liturgies in the chapel dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul and to carry out acts of devotion in front of the tombs of their ancestors. This year, the discovery of the violated tombs has caused pain and despair among the Christians of the area, who have gathered expressions of immediate solidarity from the representatives of the Yazidi community still residing in Turkey.
The desecration of the ancient Christian cemetery of Yemişli was promptly reported to the local police.
The mountainous region of Tur Abdin, in the south-eastern province of Mardin, constitutes an area of historical roots of the Sire Christian communities in the region. The seat of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch in the thirteenth century had settled near Mardin, in the Monastery of Mor Hananyo, and remained there until 1933, before moving to Syria (first to Homs and then to Damascus). In the early years of the Syrian conflict, the Mardin Province recorded the arrival of a substantial flow of Christian refugees who fled Syria. In February 2018 (see Fides, 13/2/2018), a decree law ordered the full restitution, to the Foundations linked to the Syrian Orthodox Church, of dozens of ecclesiastical assets - churches, monasteries, land and even ancient cemeteries - scattered in the region of Mardin and which in 2017 had been placed under the control of Turkish public institutions. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 5/7/2022)