Mardin, meaning fortress in Aramaic, is a town of about 65,000 inhabitants in the south east of Turkey near the border with Syria where a few days ago a small step forward the peaceful coexistence among different religions and denominations was taken.
In the presence of Mgr. Shleimun Warduni, Chaldean auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, and of many Chaldeans, priests and lay people arrived there from Istanbul but also from France and Belgium, the ancient church dating back to the IV century dedicated to Saint Hormisda, one of the patrons of the Chaldean church, has been reopened after years of restoration.
"There are a few Chaldean families in Mardin, 4 or 5, not more, but it was important to restore such an example of ancient and beautiful church," said Mgr. Warduni to Baghdadhope telling of his trip to Turkey.
"The attitude of the Turkish government towards the non-Islamic believers facilitated this project and the opening of the church was attended by the governor, the mayor and the police chief of Mardin. The Chaldean archeparchy of Diyarbakir is currently a vacant seat after the death of Archbishop Paul Karatash in 2005 and is headed by Mgr. François Yakan who lives in Istanbul.
As for the church of Saint Hormisda in Mardin the small number of families living there does not allow the presence of a Chaldean priest but, and this is truly a beautiful sign of unity among Christians, the church will be overseen by Father Gabriel Akyuz, a Syriac Orthodox priest in charge of all Christians, without distinction.
It is the same in Diyarbakir where there is a church dedicated to Mar Pethion, a martyr of the V century. The church is not operating even if it is regularly visited by both Christians and Muslims and it is in the care of an Armenian family and the Mass is occasionally celebrated by Father Yousif, another Syriac Orthodox priest. Turkey is a nation that bears plain signs of the Christianity that left there many important milestones of its history.
During this trip, for example, I visited the tomb of Bishop James in the town of Nusaybin, the ancient Nisibis, where by tradition in the IV century Saint Ephrem founded a school of philosophy and theology which is of great importance in the history of the Church the East."
The reopening of the church in Mardin supported by the Turkish government can therefore be considered as a small step of the Chaldean church not so much towards the Western countries of the diaspora but towards its historic sites?
"Yes, a small but important step because it is a sign of the possible and peaceful coexistence in those lands of different religions and denominations in the name of God and of the cooperation among human beings."