Religious leaders send joint letter to Foreign Minister about expropriation of churches in Turkey


SYDNEY: The Australian religious leaders of the Armenian, Assyrian, Syrian and Chaldean churches have sent a joint letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop, regarding Turkey’s decision to expropriate 6300 properties in the Sur district in the Diyarbakir region.

The letter protested the Turkish government’s decision to confiscate the following particular religious properties:

St. Giragos Armenian Church
The Armenian Catholic Church
St. Mary Syrian Orthodox Church
St. Virgin Ancient Assyrian Church
St. Sarkis Chaldean Church
Protestant Churches

The joint letter read:

“Australia is a land of diversity where many different religions and races live side by side in peace and in harmony. With this kind of background and experience we expect the Australian government’s intervention to intercede on behalf of the minorities in Turkey to be able to retain their places of worship.”

It continued: “This might further prove whether present day Turkey, being an Islamic country, is ‘democratic’ in accordance with the Western understanding of the term.”

The following religious leaders signed this joint letter:

Bishop Haigazoun Najarian, Primate Diocese of the Armenian Church of Australia and New Zealand
Mor Malatius Malki Malki, Metropolitan, Archbishop of Australia and New Zealand of the Syrian Orthodox Church
Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Metropolitan of Australia, New Zealand and Lebanon of the Assyrian Church of the East
Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona, Saint Thomas the Apostle Chaldean Church of Sydney
Very Rev. Basil Soussanian, Patriarchal Vicar Armenian Catholic Church of Australia

This letter follows on from the joint letter sent by the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) and the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) – click

ANC Australia Executive Administrator, Arin Markarian said: “We welcome this joint statement by the five signatories in the letter sent to Foreign Minister Bishop, who have shown important religious leadership by showing their discontent at the decision by the Turkish government to assume ownership of religious properties.”

He added: “We join in their call for Australia to condemn Turkey.”

Photo: (L-R) Bishop Haigazoun Najarian, Very Rev. Basil Soussanian, Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona, Mar Meelis Zaia AM, Mor Malatius Malki Malki