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Surp Haç Church on the island of Akdamar in the eastern province of Van was re-opened to worship in  2010 after it was left unattended for 95 years. AA photo

Surp Haç Church on the island of Akdamar in the eastern province of Van was re-opened to worship in 2010 after it was left unattended for 95 years. AA photo

Göksel Bozkurt Göksel Bozkurt goksel.bozkurt@hurriyet.com.tr

A total of 69 churches and synagogues have been restored since 2002, costing a total of 18 million Turkish Liras, a senior government member has announced. The restoration of two synagogues and eight churches are still ongoing in different parts of the country, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said. 

Bozdağ discussed the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) record with regard to its assistance to the religious services of non-Muslims, in a response to a parliamentary question from Mehmet Şandır, deputy parliamentary group leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). 

An allocation of 17,726,301 liras since 2002 has been granted by the government, which has helped complete the renovation of 69 churches and synagogues, Bozdağ stressed. The government also paid all the costs of cleaning and lighting the churches, a total of nearly 70,000 liras over the last ten years. In the same period, 10 churches that ceased their activities long ago have again begun giving religious services after being fully renovated. 

According to information provided by the General Directorate of Foundations, renovated churches as of the end of 2011 are the Çanakkale Gökçeada St. Nicholas Church, Hatay İskenderun Syrian Catholic Church, Hatay İskenderun Greek Catholic Church, Diyarbakir Armenian Protestant Church, and the Diyarbakır Armenian Catholic Church. 

The renovation of the Edirne Central Synagogue, known as the Big Synagogue, is still ongoing. Those which are still planned to be restored are the Ayvalık Cunda Taksiyarhis (St. Nicholas) Church, Gaziantep Nizip Fevkani Church, Gökçeada Yıldız Village Monastery, Gökçeada Ayia Marina Greek Orthodox Church, Gaziantep Şahinbey Synagogue, Kilis Central Synagogue, and the Hatay Yayladağı Greek Orthodox Church. 

The government is frequently criticized for being unwilling to improve the conditions of worship for non-Muslims living in Turkey. Reports from the European Union and the United States urge the government to do more to address the freedom of religion of non-Muslims.

July/23/2012

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