09/20/2020 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – A wall was built closing the two entrances to a Greek Orthodox Church located in Turkey’s Tralleis. It is unknown who built the wall, but it’s presence was condemned by the head of the province’s Department of Culture and Tourism, who reported the crime.
It is rumored that the Didima Municipality had installed the wall because they wanted to issue licenses to serve alcohol for nearby restaurants. According to the law, alcohol cannot be sold within 100 meters of a functioning religious institution. The church is on a list which is supposed to afford it protection by the authorities. The church was supposedly restored in 2007, but the process was actually destructive and the church is left in decay.
On the one hand, it is good that the Department of Culture and Tourism reported this issue to the prosecutor’s office. The church should not have been walled, and it should be cared for by the authorities. On the other hand, Turkey’s many empty churches are often used as a source of income from tourists, and even converted into mosques. Turkey views these churches as historical, a relic of the past. The Christian community in Turkey, including the Greek Orthodox, were subject to a violent genocide a century ago. This left the country largely empty of its Christian presence. Turkey needs to help the church to thrive once again by protecting religious freedom, not just the historic past.