People hold mass in front of ruins of collapsed church

People hold mass in front of ruins of collapsed church

People hold mass in front of ruins of collapsed church

Following the Feb. 6 earthquakes that caused massive destruction in the country’s south, the first Sunday mass has taken place in front of the ruins of collapsed Antakya Protestant Church in the southern province of Hatay.

Hatay, especially its historical Antakya district, which has hosted several cultures and religions for centuries, experienced massive destruction in the twin earthquakes that rocked the country’s south.

In the earthquake, historically significant places of worship such as Antakya Protestant Church, Antakya Greek Orthodox Church, Habib-i Neccar Mosque and Antakya Grand Mosque, which are considered among the symbols of Hatay, were also destroyed.

Most of the members of the Christina community left the city and migrated to the neighboring provinces of Mersin and Adana, while those who preferred to remain in Hatay are trying to hold on to life in tent cities.

Quake survivors in the district gathered in front of the ruins of the Antakya Protestant Church and held Sunday mass for the first time after the devastating earthquakes.

Members of the Christian community living in the other provinces also attended the ceremony held outside the church that was reduced to rubble after the quakes.

Following the choral prayer, the pastor gave a sermon about the quake, urging the community to remain calm.

Following the ritual, all the members of the congregation held hands and shared their pain with each other.

The pastor expressed his sadness due to the quake disaster and asked all people in the world to pray for Türkiye.

Corc Kocamahhul, the director of the church, expressed they went to sleep on Feb. 5 and woke up with “having lost everything” on Feb. 6.

“We lost our relatives and friends. Unfortunately, they [search and rescue teams] arrived in Antakya too late. Our friends and relatives died asking for help for three days. This is a harsh reality,” Kocamahhul said.

“For a month, I have heard the voice of my neighbor Bereket and her husband saying, ‘Help me.’ We were not able to do anything for them. Our city has been destroyed.”

Kocamahhul stated that their ancestors have lived on these lands for 2,000 years, adding that they want their new homes to be built in the region.

“Antakya’s demographic structure should be preserved,” he said.

Tanya Özeksay, a Christian citizen, emphasized the cultural and religious diversity of the district, stating that she decided not to migrate to other provinces.

“Our childhood was destroyed. In this city, the sounds of adhan and church bells were together. Unfortunately, this beauty does not exist anymore. We are not going anywhere, we are staying here,” Özeksay expressed.

“It makes us quite sad that our city of civilizations is in this situation,” Fatma Bozdoğan said from the community.

“We are a part of this city. We do not think to leave it,” another citizen stated.