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Turkey: Church Attacked and Desecrated in Eastern Village of Mehr

The desecration of Marta Shimoni Church in Turkey’s village of Mehr demonstrates the same contempt for the Christian history and heritage of Asia Minor that we see in the conversion of Hagia Sophia and the Monastery of Chora to mosques, and the conversion of other ancient churches to mosques as well. This contempt for Christianity and Christians is also manifested in the ongoing denial of property rights and legal identity to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of the persecution of Christians in Turkey, see here.

“Church Attacked and Desecrated in Eastern Turkey,” International Christian Concern, May 14, 2021:

05/14/2021 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) –International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that on May 11, 2021, it was discovered that Marta Shimoni Church in Turkey’s village of Mehr was attacked and desecrated by unknown persons. This is the same village where the elderly parents of a Chaldean Catholic priest were kidnapped last year. The wife, Simoni Diril, was later found deceased. Her husband, Hormoz Diril, remains missing.

Marta Shimoni is a cave church built into the mountains, and thus cannot be destroyed in the same way as other churches. Video footage obtained by ICC shows that the destruction was primarily against the Christian items and relics inside the church. Crosses, pictures of Jesus, and rosaries were strewn across the path leading away from the mountain church’s entrance.

The village of Mehr was primarily Chaldean Christian before surrounding conflict forced its evacuation in the early the 1990s. Eleven years ago, the Diril couple had returned to the village, despite the dangers, in an attempt to rebuild the Christian presence. They were the first to return, and often celebrated mass at Marta Shimoni. The church, who is named after a local Christian martyred for her faith, stands as a historic reminder of the village’s Christian past. Sadly, Simoni Diril was found deceased on March 20, 2020, two months after her kidnapping. The fate of Hormoz Diril is unknown and the search continues.

Attorney Orhan Kemal Cengiz shared with ICC, “As the lawyer for Diril family, my main concern for the time being is to get the prosecutor to open a case against the perpetrators in the abduction of the Diril couple, which ended with the murder of Mrs. Diril. Mr. Diril is still missing. I have delivered more than a dozen petitions to the prosecutor so far, to urge him to look at the matter from different angles, as well as calling him to deliver his indictment as soon as possible.”

“Unfortunately, I could not have any positive result yet. I believe there is a strong correlation between the lack of indictment in this case and the recent attack against the chapel in the village in which the Diril couple went missing. The prosecutor’s refusal to introduce an indictment against the perpetrators emboldens the perpetrators and the people behind them.”

He continues, “I will urge the prosecutor to make a thorough investigation into the last attack on the church as well as to look into possible links between this attack and the kidnapping of the Diril couple. It is obvious, if the impunity in the case of the abduction and killing of the Diril couple continues, more attacks would follow.”

The disappearance of the Diril couple was mentioned both in the 2021 Annual Report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom and the more recently released 2020 Report on International Religious Freedom from the US Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom….

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