Aug. 6, 2019: The president of Turkey presided at the groundbreaking for a new church in the country, the first to be built in nearly 100 years.
Turkey’s population is overwhelmingly Muslim, but the government is officially nonsectarian.
The Syriac Orthodox of Mor Efrem will be constructed just outside Istanbul. In remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony Aug. 3, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said it will be a “new wealth” for the city, according to the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News.
“Like all their other issues, meeting the worshipping needs of the Assyrian community, the ancient children of our geography, is the duty of the state of the Republic of Turkey,” Erdoğan said. “We are a nation which has been ruling over this region for almost a millennium, and Istanbul for 566 years. Throughout this long history, our region has always been the heart of religious, ethnic and cultural diversity, most importantly of the conscience of humanity.
“To us, anyone who has affection and loyalty for Turkey and contributes to [the country] is a first-class citizen,” Erdoğan insisted.
According to the president, Turkey is currently hosting nearly 4 million Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens, as well as Muslims, Assyrians and Yezidis who came from Syria and Iraq since the rise of the Islamic State group.
“The real target of terror groups and their allies is our common homeland and the best way to disappoint them is to see our differences as our most important wealth,” Erdoğan said.