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The Great Monastery of St. Gabriel in Captivity

Gabriel Sawma

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A long-standing land dispute between the Syrian Orthodox community in south-east Turkey and the local villagers has finally turned into a legal battle attracting international attention. The disagreement has been closely monitored by the European Union for some time, and US President Barack Obama and the State Department are monitoring the dispute.

In a remote village near Midyat, South East Turkey, a land dispute with neighboring villages is threatening the future of Mor Gabriel, one of the World’s oldest Christian monasteries, also known as the monastery of St. Gabriel, a property of the Syrian Orthodox Church (Suryani).

In August 2008, three mukhtars (low level elected officials with limited authority) in Midyat, filed a criminal complaint with a local prosecutor against the Monastery of St. Gabriel alleging it “illegally appropriated territory by building a wall.” (See US Department of State, 2008 Human Rights Report: Turkey.)
On September 4, a Cadastre court ruled against the monastery and reclaimed all but 30 percent of the monastery’s lands. Official papers from the 1950s documented the provincial administrative board’s approval of the monastery’s borders.

St. Gabriel Monastery was founded in 397. It has 3 monks and 14 nuns. It also has 12,000 ancient corpses buried in a basement crypt. On the details of this conflict, see the Wall Street Journal article at http://s.wsj.net/article/SB123638477632658147.html

The Monastery of St. Gabriel in south-east Turkey

The Monastery of St. Gabriel

While this episode is sponsored by the Turkish government who initiated the whole conflict, the question arises as is this a first step towards the Islamization of the remnants of Christians found in the region of Tur Abdin (an Aramaic term means the mountain of worshippers), or using the normal tactics through a campaign of intimidation to make the remaining Christians leave Turkey and converting the Monastery into a mosque or a museum.

For Christians, Turkey is an important country. According to the Bible, it was in the Turkish town of Antioch that the folConversion of Christian Churches into Mosqueslowers of Jesus were first called Christians. The first adherents to Christianity were Syriac speaking people of the Aramaean ancestry, including the Syrian Orthodox Church (Suryani) and the Church of the East (popularly know as the Nestorian Church or the Assyrian Church.)

Turkey is the birthplace of Apostles and Saints, including Paul of Tarsus, Timothy, St. Nicholas of Myra, and many others. St. Peter went on missionary journeys farther into the Gentile world [Turkey].


Read the entire article on the Assyrian Times website (new window will open).

Posted: 11-Jun-2009

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