June 20, 2011 - 14:01 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Diaspora Armenians and clergy held a small service in Turkish Diyarbakır’s local church on Saturday, June 18, in what many hope is a harbinger for a more multicultural future in the southeastern city, Hürriyet Daily News reports.
“The sounds of the call to prayer and church bells will mix here on this land from now on,” Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir said following the service at the restored Surp Giragos Church. “There were major sorrows experienced in the past. We [condemn] the heartlessness of those days in our hearts and we want a new start.”
“Diyarbakır was a multicultural city in the past but we lost a lot with the ‘monist’ policy with the [Turkish] Republic. To be able to resurrect social peace, lessons should be learned from the past and history needs to be encountered,” Diyarbakır Sur Mayor Abdullah Demirbaş said, adding that he was very pleased to be able to host the guests.
Surp Giragos’ restoration was widely supported by Istanbul Armenians, although the Turkish Culture Ministry, Diyarbakır’s Sur Municipality and Diaspora Armenians also contributed to refurbishing the church.
Archbishop and Deputy Patriarch Aram Ateşyan said, “It is a start that Diyarbakır Armenians come and visit the land they have been born. We hope it [this trend] continues.”
Defined as the largest church in the Middle East by some experts, the historic Surp Giragos Church will host a more grandiose service in October. Along with the representatives of Armenian Apostolic Churches from all around the world, representatives of sister churches and leading names from the Diaspora are expected to form part of the large congregation.
The total cost of the restoration is around $2.5 million; once the church is open for services its annex buildings will host several cultural and arts projects.