ISTANBUL (Agos)—Following a six-month course of church doctrine and basic knowledge of Christian belief, 12 more Dersim Armenians took their first step back to Christianity with a collective baptism ceremony. Two married couples also held religious engagement ceremonies following the baptism ceremony held on May 9 at the Yeşilköy Surp Stepanos Church in Istanbul.
The efforts of forcibly Islamised Armenians to “return to their identity” have accelerated in recent years. Such individuals display a desire to live and express their identity openly, which they are forced to conceal in their neighborhoods, at school and at their workplaces, and to bring an end to the division of identities sometimes even experienced within the same family.
Dersim Armenians have thus organized collective baptism ceremonies at Armenian churches to officially return to their religion and identity.
A new life
Led by Father Dirtad Uzunean, the baptism ceremony was presided over by Archbishop Aram Ateshian. Nazar Binatli, Pakrat Estukian, Boghos Cholak, Kamer Karatayli, and Hagop Altınkaya were the godfathers of the Dersimians who returned to Christianity and took the names Karin, Derev, Naira, Lia, Arev, Arshaluys, Kristin, Hovnan, Rupen, Hovannes Minas, Lusin Mane, and Minas. The couples Boghos and Sirpuhi Cholak and Hovannes and Lusin Cholak consolidated their marriage ties by repeating their vows in the presence of the Church. Yervant Dink and Kamer Karatayli acted as groomsmen for the couple.
Agos spoke to some of the Dersim Armenians who were baptized on Saturday at the Surp Stepanos Church, and asked them about their feelings.
“We are returning to our roots,” Arev said.
“I am now experiencing the freedom of being able to defend myself against those who insult us. Today, I am the happiest person in the world. For years, Armenians suffered the greatest insults at my workplace, and I could not speak back, fearing I would lose my job. From now on, I will wear my cross around my neck. We dreamed of this day since our childhood. We are returning to our roots.”
Hovannes Minas said, “We began as three, we ended up as twelve.”
“This is a very happy day for me. I have been both baptized, and we held our religious marriage ceremony. It is an inexpressible happiness. We never forgot our religion. We can live freely now. I had made a promise to my mother and father to bury them in an Armenian cemetery, I was able to keep that promise as well. We were three of us when we decided to become baptized, and we achieved our purpose as 12. We are very happy.”
Kristin said: “I feel amazing. I have been waiting for this day for a long time. I no longer have to conceal my identity. I can now freely say I am a Christian. I felt, from time to time, both in the Armenian community and my circle of friends, that I was being excluded because I had not been baptized, but this emancipation will serve as a remedy.”