Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan oversaw a ceremonial laying of the foundation stone for the construction of the first new church building in Turkey in nearly a century.
In a ceremony held Saturday in Istanbul, Erdogan celebrated the beginning of construction for the new church, which will serve the local Syriac Christian community and will be the first new church built in Turkey since the nation became a republic in 1923.
In his remarks at the ceremony, Erdogan championed tolerance for minority communities in the Muslim-majority nation, declaring that “this country, this state belongs to everyone.”
“It is the Turkish republic’s duty to meet the need for space to worship for the Syriac community, who are the ancient children of this geography,” stated Erdogan, as reported by AFP.
“Anyone who has affection for, contributes to and is loyal to Turkey is a first-class citizen. There are no barriers to anyone in politics, trade or any other area.”
The church will be constructed in the Istanbul neighborhood of Yesilkoy, located in the Bakirköy municipality. According to Erdogan, the church should be completed within the next two years.
Plans to construct the church were first announced in January, with Yusuf Cetin, the Syriac Orthodox Church’s metropolitan for Istanbul and the capital Ankara, supporting the decision.
“We’re proud of living under the Turkish flag in this land,” stated Cetin, as reported by Anadolu Agency, also saying that “everyone’s hearts beat for our Turkey.”
The Syriac Christian community will be paying for the building, which is expected to have a sanctuary with space for approximately 700 believers.
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Gryboski