Turkey, Culture

Turkey: Chaldean Christians restoring church in SE

Under state-backed program, 8 families return to their hometown free of terrorism, restore Mor Yuhanon Church

Fadil Aslan   | 11.07.2019
Turkey: Chaldean Christians restoring church in SE

SIRNAK, Turkey 

With their hometown cleared of terrorist elements, Chaldean Christians in southeastern Turkey have returned to restore their local church.

Eight Chaldean families were forced to leave their home in the 1990s due to escalating terror in the region, but they recently returned to their village, known as Cevizagaci or “Walnut Tree” in English, in Beytussebap, in the Sirnak province, with the help of the Turkish government’s “return to village program.”

Turkey started the Return to Villages program in the early 2000s for people to return to areas once plagued by terrorism but now safe and secure.

The families, glad to be back in their peaceful village, wanted to renovate the Mor Yuhanon Church, where they had worshiped in the past but had been destroyed over time.

Angel funding came from a fellow villager named Celebi Yaramis, who now lives in Europe and comes to visit his hometown once a year.

Yaramis offered the necessary financial support for the church’s reconstruction.

Metin Yaramis, a local leader in Cevizagaci, told Anadolu Agency that back in the 1990s the village had as many as 45 households.

“We came back to our village with peace and rebuilt our houses.”

Local and state support

In this village, whose residents follow the centuries-old eastern Chaldean Christian faith and speak Kurdish as well as Turkish, Metin Yaramis said they enjoy support from both neighboring settlements and the state.

In summertime, nearly 100 families living in Europe come to visit the village, he said. “In winter, only eight families live here.”

“Everyone here welcomed us restoring the church,” he stressed.

“Our Muslim brothers are also helping to restore the church. There’s no distinction here.”

Zarife Yaramis, a former resident of Cevizagaci now living in Belgium, said she is happy to see the village alive again and added: “I’m glad to be in my village, my kids also love it here. I have very nice neighbors.”

Aydin Yaramis, a teenager living in the village, said: “Before there was a church, we did our prayers at home,” adding that he would live to see a village school.

“There’s peace here, like never before. Soon it may be a better place than Europe,” he added.

Cemil Acar, from a neighboring village, said he and the residents of Cevzagaci enjoy a good relationship, adding: “Now they’ll have a place to worship comfortably. We’re pleased with them and may Allah be pleased.”

*Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur

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