Some 300 writers, academics and artists in have joined a petition campaign to protest a verdict by the Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals to nationalize the estates of the Mor Gabriel Monastery (Mardin), the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world, dating back to 397 AD.
Established in 397 A.D., the Mor Gabriel Monastery bears exceptional significance for Syriacs, as it stands on par with Muslims' "Al Aqsa Mosque" for the Syriac community, trains half of all their clergy and has enabled the survival of the Syriac language, according to Tuma Özdemir, the head of the Mesopotamia Culture Association.
Prof. Cengiz Aktar, Tuma Özdemir and Tuma Çelik, the owner of the Mardin-based Syriac journal Sabro, came together in Istanbul's Cezayir Meeting Hall to expound on the petition campaign entitled "Turkey is the Syriacs' Homeland, and the Mor Gabriel Monastery is not an Occupier."
The Oriental Orthodox communion comprises six churches: Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church or Indian Orthodox Church and Armenian Apostolic churches.These churches, while being in communion with one another, are hierarchically independent.
Around 20,000 Syriacs are currently living in Turkey. 15,000 of them reside in Istanbul, while the rest reside in Mardin and its vicinity.