Turkish Press: Turkey to restore churches destroyed by PKK

Anadolu Agency (AA), Turkey
Turkey to restore churches destroyed by PKK
Government to restore St. Giragos and Mar Petyun Keldani churches in Diyarbakir province
By Ozgur Ayaydin
Historical churches in eastern Turkey that were destroyed by PKK terrorists four years ago will be restored by the government, officials said Wednesday.
The Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning stepped in along with the Foundations Directorate-General (VGM), which manages and audits religious foundations, after the Christian community said that they were unable to pay for restoration of two ancient churches.
The St. Giragos and Mar Petyun Keldani churches in Sur district of Diyarbakir province date back to the 14th and 17th century, respectively.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, District Governor Abdullah Ciftci said Sur reflects Turkey's long history of interfaith harmony.
The Fatih Pasa and Seyh Muhtar mosques, historical Dort Ayakli Minare (minaret) and Armenian Protestant Church in the province have already been restored by the government.
PKK has no respect for religious values which it showed by destroying historical mosques and churches, said Ciftci, adding that restoration work for the two churches will start shortly.
"We see values of other religions as our own and we are doing our best to protect them. They are part of our civilization and deserve respect.
"All parts of these historical places of worship will be repaired and opened for worship," said Ciftci.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people.
Metin Evsen, VGM's regional director, said that they are working hard to repair the churches that were destroyed by PKK.
The renovation of the Armenian Protestant Church was completed last year while the renovation of the Armenian Catholic Church is still in progress, said Evsen.
The two restorations have cost 10 million Turkish liras ($1.8 million), added Evsen.
The St. Giragos church was built in 1376 and is known to be the biggest Armenian church in the Middle East. It was used by the German army as headquarters during the World War I and was converted into a warehouse after the war.
Between the 1960s and 1980s, the Armenian community obtained its ownership but due to mass immigration to urban areas, the church remained deserted for several years.
It was renovated and reopened in October 2011, but a PKK attack destroyed it.

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