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Turkish authorities confiscate 50 properties from one of world’s oldest Christian communities which fears it is being driven into extinction

One of the world’s oldest Christian communities fears extinction after the Turkish government confiscated 50 of its properties.

The Syriac Orthodox Church was deprived of dozens of churches, monasteries and cemeteries over claims the ownership deeds had lapsed.

Christian leaders say the assets being seized include two monasteries built 1,500 years ago, the loss of which would be a crushing blow to their culture.

Fears are running high after a last-ditch appeal against the confiscation of 50 properties on behalf of the ancient monastery of Mor Gabriel(pictured) in southeastern Turkey was rejected
Kuryakos Ergun, chairman of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, said Turkey’s Christians had ‘never been through as difficult a legal period’

Fears are running high after a last-ditch appeal against the confiscation on behalf of the ancient monastery of Mor Gabriel in southeastern Turkey was rejected.

Kuryakos Ergun, chairman of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation, said Turkey’s Christians had ‘never been through as difficult a legal period’.

He told Fox: ‘We went to sleep one night, and we woke up the next morning to see what was ours the night before no longer belonged to us.’

Taking to Al-Monitor, he added: ‘Our churches and monasteries are what root Syriacs in these lands; our existence relies on them.’

Critics say the dispute is a new chapter in the long history of religious persecution of the small Christian community by the Turkish state.

The row began when Turkish government land officials redrew the boundaries around Mor Gabriel and other villages in 2008 to update a national land registry.

The row began when Turkish government land officials redrew the boundaries around Mor Gabriel and other villages. Pictured: Monks perform a service
The monks say the new boundaries turn over to the villages large plots of land the monastery has owned for centuries, and designate monastery land as public forest

The monks say the new boundaries turn over to the villages large plots of land the monastery has owned for centuries, and designate monastery land as public forest.

Christian groups believe officials want to ultimately stamp out the Syriac Orthodox monastery.

Turkey’s ruling AK Party government, which has Islamist roots, has repeatedly been criticised for hampering religious freedom for minority groups.

However, the country has taken steps in previous years to improve conditions for Syriacs, including allowing the group to open its first school in nine decades.

The twin spires of the Mor Gabriel monastery stand against a blue sky

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