07/09/2022 Turkey (International Christian Concern) – An ancient Christian cemetery has been tragically desecrated in Turkey. Local Christians discovered the scene recently, on June 29. Graves were discovered damaged, human remains scattered and grave goods tarnished around the cemetery complex. The authors responsible acted with determination. June 29 is a day of celebration dedicated to the liturgical memory of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, to whom the cemetery chapel was dedicated when it was built in 1967. The vandals specifically targeted this place and this time of year to maximize their affront against local Christians.
Local Christian communities, including Syriac, Assyrian and Chaldean groups, gather annually in the cemetery chapel to celebrate liturgies dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul. They also gather to perform traditional acts of reverence and devotion at the graves of their own ancestors who are buried at the site. The location is home to tombs dating back to the first millennium. Upon finding the cemetery desecrated this year, local Christians were filled with grief, despair and outrage. Other communities expressed their solidarity with the outraged Christians, including the local Yazidi community.
The Christians immediately reported the vandalism of the cemetery complex to the local Turkish police. They hope that the authorities will act effectively to pursue justice against the criminals, especially given the importance of historic sites in this region not only for local Christians but also for the wider Christian community. The southeastern province of Mardin, where the cemetery is located, is of considerable historical significance, largely because the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch existed nearby from the 13th century until 1933. A 2018 law even recognized the importance of the region by ordering that control of churches, monasteries, lands and even ancient cemeteries in the region be given directly to foundations linked to the Syrian Orthodox Church. Perhaps the value of the cemetery for the Christian community will motivate the Turkish police to find those responsible for the desecration of this precious site.
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