09/22/2009, 00.00
TURKEY

Christian tombs desecrated in an historic Istanbul cemetery

by NAT da Polis
About 90 tombstones are broken. Incidents of this nature are not rate in the city but the local press failed to report it. Only recently and through a movie, have young Turks begun to learn about past anti-Christian pogroms. Ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew visits the cemetery in question.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) – A Christian cemetery was desecrated in Istanbul. Unknown person or persons broke 90 tombstones that bore the sign of the cross and the name of the deceased. The incident occurred a few days ago in the historic cemetery of Valukli near the ancient Valukli Monastery, the only monastery dedicated to Our Lady still open in Istanbul, located outside the ancient walls of Theodosius, and which five non-resident nuns care for.

Istanbul’s Christian cemeteries have been desecrated on a number of occasions in the past 20 years. The latest outrage brought back memories of the tragic events of September 1955 when churches, cemeteries and properties owned by Istanbul’s Orthodox community were desecrated and destroyed in a pogrom.  Eventually dubbed the September pogrom, the event was the brainchild of Turkey’s political-bureaucratic-military establishment, known here as Derin Devlet or ‘deep state’.

The pogrom has remained engraved in the memories of Istanbul’s Christians who at that moment realised that their survival in the city would be difficult, if not impossible.

Young Turks have learnt about such tragic episodes only recently, when Guz Sancisi, a movie by young Turkish woman director Tomris Giritlioglu, was screened in local theatres to great review and box office success.

It is also important to keep in mind that Christian cemeteries are very large and serve as a reminder of the small Christian presence in this country.

Given Istanbul’s huge urban development, Christian cemeteries have become surrounded by human habitation and are coveted by developers.

A law adopted in the 1930s transferred title to cemeteries to municipalities; hitherto, they had belonged to religious foundations

Outraged and grieved by what happened, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew (pictured) went to see the desecrated cemetery, asking why such acts continue to strike Christian graveyards.

Despite the seriousness of the incident, the local press did not report it.

Photo: Nikos Manginas

Printable version
CLOSE X
See also
Ecumenical patriarch: Easter, Christ’s victory over death belongs to all Christians
28/04/2008
Christians should take the good from secularised world without identifying with it, says Bartholomew
12/07/2007
The court had no jurisdiction to deny the patriarchate its ecumenical status, says Bartholomew
09/07/2007
Closer dialogue between Vatican and Ecumenical Patriarchate
01/12/2005
Bartholomew I: may Kirill's election foster common journey of Orthodox Churches
04/02/2009