DIYARBAKIR—A group of Armenians, raised as Sunni Muslims because their ancestors converted to Islam after the Armenian Genocide, were reportedly baptized Monday at the newly re-opened Surp Giragos Church, reported Hurriyet Daily News.
“I wish this church had always been open,” Gaffur Türkay, one of the group to be baptized, who also contributed to the restoration of the church, told Hurriyet. “It is unbelievable to be together here with people from all around the world with whom I share the same origins.”
Istanbul’s Deputy Patriarch Aram Ateshian was scheduled to officiate at the baptismal ceremony, which was held behind closed doors and was not open to the press. The newspaper reported that the names of those baptized would not be publicized due to security concerns.
Hurriyet also caught of with Turkish-born Archbishop Vicken Ayvazian, who was representing the Eastern US Diocese of the Armenian Church.
“We used to have over 2,600 churches and monasteries across Anatolia in the past. Unfortunately, only a handful of sanctuaries remain. My request from Turkey as a spiritual leader is for churches to be returned to the [Armenian] community, rather than reopening them for religious service as museums,” Archbishop Ayvazian told Hürriyet.
He also told Hurriyet that “there was a Genocide,” saying an acknowledgement of the fact can be a step toward the right direction.
Used as a command center for German officers during the First World War, the church was then used as an apparel depot by the state-owned Sümerbank until 1950. The church was then handed back to the Armenian community, following a long legal battle, reported Hurriyet.