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|Prayers at Akhtamar and in Ani
So, this is not just about people praying churches. It is diplomacy and showing the world openness and a movement toward religious tolerance by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). It is a negation of that by the MHP. And, I am sure there are many more nuances of gray in Turkey than black and white. There seems to be quite a struggle in Turkey to determine what kind of country it will be moving forward.
It is not about people praying in churches. It is about Armenians attending the service because their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents hailed from Van and Surp Khatch is even a more special place for them than it does for other Armenians. It is about Armenian church leaders and others who would not participate because the Turkish government had neither put a cross on Surp Khatch nor have they acknowledged the 1915 Genocide. Note: There were reports that a cross was erected on Surp Khatch on the same day Devlet Bahceli lead the group to Ani. At the time of this writing, I have not seen any confirming photos.
Did I mention that Surp Khatch means Holy Cross? Surp Khatch had no cross until yesterday.
I did mention Alp Arslan took the cross off of and then prayed in the cathedral upon conquering the ancient Armenian capital of Ani.
Can it be that both events ironically or purposely happened the same day? There is a lot going on in Turkey.
How is this not about religion? How is this not about two peoples with incredible overlaps in culture hating each other and small minorities trying to overcome that? I leave that to the blah blah of scholars, historians, sociologists, and politicians. I only know the shades of murky gray that shroud these issues.
I would love to read the sermon from the badarak in Surp Khatch. I wonder if any sermon like words were delivered yesterday in Ani?
What would the reaction have been if the Armenians had a service in the conquered mosque in Aghdam, Karabagh? Would it have been as benign as the Armenian reaction to the Namaz in the Ani Cathedral? I hardly think so.
Maybe the Turks should convert the cathedral in Ani and any other shell of an Armenian church left in the Armenian Highlands into mosques. Before I am labelled a heretic by Armenians, hear me out. Our churches have gradually disappeared as their stones have been used for less noble purposes. As mosques, at least they would be restored and maintained. I do not see these treasures being returned to Armenians any time soon.
Yesterday reminded me in no uncertain terms who is victor and who is vanquished in this long sad relationship of Armenians and Turks. It explains why an email from my daughter with a link to a video of the event in Ani had the simple subject “ugh...” It reminded of my college friend Halim. We discussed Armenian-Turkish issues back in the early 1980s. One time out of complete frustration with how to appease me, he snapped and said, “if you have the power, take it back . If you can’t shut up.” Halim’s outburst made me think of Khrimian Hayrig’s yergateh sherep (iron ladle) speech.
Khirimian Hayrig’s words came to mind yesterday. Yet, I tried to take the high road and be happy someone was praying in the church. I felt less happy when I learned it was a repeat of and re-emphasis of Alp Aslan’s act upon conquering Ani.
So all in all, ugh, just another day of being a diasporan Armenian, a grandson of Kharpert and Shabin-Karahisar, looking for closure...
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