Monday, April 20, 2009

TURKEY: The Mor Gabriel Monastery Dispute

The Midyat district located in the south eastern Turkish province of Mardin is home to the Mor Gabriel Monastery, belonging to the Syriac Christian congregation. In recent times, a dispute has erupted between the Monastery and local villagers over land adjacent to the Monastery building. That land, consisting of some 285 of the total 1,227 hectares on which the Monastery stands, was recently declared "woodland" by the Land Registry General Directorate.

Local Muslim village heads have brought court proceedings against the Monastery, seeking to have the wall built by the Monastery around the forested woodland removed so as to allow for grazing animals. This court dispute has now become an international incident, with both the EU and the Obama administration watching Turkey's handling of the issue very carefully.

There is some suggestion that local villagers are being "manipulated" to turn this into a religious issue, pitting local Muslims and Christians against each other. The (ironically Islamist-leaning) Turkish government is seeking to avoid this turning into a religious dispute, and is pressuring the farmers to withdraw their court application pending a government investigation into the historical land registry records.

You can find out more in this article from Zaman.

The Monastery is one of the oldest active Christian monasteries on earth. It pre-dates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

Speaking of whom, the Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said (more or less):

Whoever mistreated a non-Muslim citizen of an Islamic state will have me witnessing against him on the Day of Judgment.

Turkey may not be an "Islamic" state. But its government should insist on minorities not being mistreated.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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