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Turkey to build first church in nearly 100 years

The recent announcement made by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, confirmed the government has authorised the planned building of the first church in the country for almost 100 years. The church is intended for the small Syriac community and will be built in Yesilkoy, a small suburb in Istanbul which is already home to Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Catholic churches. The church will be for the small community which consists of approximately 20,000 people, including those Syriac refugees from Iraq and Syria. The church will be built on land donated by the local council and paid for by a Syriac group. 

There have been no new churches built since the republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, although there have been extensive renovations allowed to existing buildings. The land granted for this build lies within the boundaries of a Catholic cemetery. 
Church in Turkey

Originally Turkey had a large Christian minority however it is now 90% Muslim with Christians amounting to a small percentage of the population of 76 million. However Ankara in its efforts to join the European Union is responsible for the widening of the rights of the minorities and returning property that had been seized, as well as restoring a number of churches, synagogues and monasteries.

Turkey is an ancient land that is home to a large variety of ethnicities and multiple religions. Unlike those countries that are mainly Muslim, the government of Turkey is secular and as such believes in the separation of church and state, making Turkey a country where people are free to practice any religion of choice.

Almost 90% of the citizens of Turkey are Muslim, which is a large percentage for a country with a secular government. This equates to 72% of Muslims that are Sunnis and 25% Alevis. 

There is about 10% of non – Muslims and this amounts for a diverse group who come from a multitude of different religions. The two most common being Christianity and Judaism and this is said to have come from the fact that Turkey was one of the earliest lands to be settled and also it is the birthplace of several biblical characters in both Christianity and Judaism with many sites considered sacred by the Christian religion.

The Constitution of Turkey prohibits any religious groups to be involved in politics and there is a restriction against forming faith schools. When Mustafa Kemal Ataturk came to power he set about removing all church or religious influences from government with this reform being known as the Kemalism. 

As obvious as the disconnection between the secular government and population, and those being a huge majority of one religion, Turkey offers a tolerance to religion unlike a number of their neighbours allowing open worship of many different religions, and thus, proving to be a mix of culture and diversity that is hard to come by elsewhere.

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