Easter celebrated across Turkey amid tight security measures
AA photoTurkey’s Catholic, Armenian and Protestant communities celebrated Easter Sunday in various cities across the country on March 27, amid tight security measures taken by the police against possible attacks against the religious minority groups.
Easter, or “Paskalya” in Turkish, a Christian holy day which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, was celebrated in Turkey’s major Christian populated cities such as Istanbul, Mersin, Hatay and İzmir, with followers of the religion joining church services and engaging in traditional activities.
Meanwhile, police stepped up security measures against any kind of terrorist attacks which could possibly target religious minorities over the Easter weekend. Warning notices were sent to security units across Turkey, reminding of the Christian religious ceremonies and activities that would take place during this weekend and asking for vigilance against any possible actions against the supporters of the religion.
The notice also warned against the actions of Islamist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Hizbullah, which it said could target groups other than Christians, such as Jews, Jafaris and Alevis, in their sanctuaries, especially in Ankara, and thus asked for controls at these places.
Istanbul’s Catholic Church of St. Anthony of Padua on İstiklal Avenue conducted its Easter celebrations on March 27 with a sermon led by Priest Julius, as police took security measures with two armed officers on duty in front of the church while other officers checked the sermon attendants and their purses before they entered the church.
Speaking at the Easter sermon given at the House of the Virgin Mary in the Selçuk district of the western province of İzmir, the priest of the house, Maciej Sokolowski, said: “We know the developments in Turkey.
That is why I doubted if people would come or not [to the sermon]. But really a huge crowd attended. The House of the Virgin Mary is not only an important place for Christians but also for Muslims. I see that God gives us a very big blessing thanks to this Easter and this place.”
Sokolowski also added the house was protected very well by security forces and the attendees of the sermon were not afraid, as people felt like they were in their own homes.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shared a message celebrating Easter, emphasizing that religious holidays were the days in which brotherhood, love and respect rule in society and feelings of solidarity and unity intensify.
Politicians from Turkey’s political parties also extended their good wishes to Christian citizens during Easter weekend. EU Minister Volkan Bozkır and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu were among the names from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who celebrated Easter, while an Istanbul deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Selina Doğan, distributed eggs and Easter cookies to the deputies in parliament and members of the press.
Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, co-leaders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), marked Easter with messages which underscored their wish for the improvement of solidarity between people.