Historic church service in Mardin, Turkey marred by attack on Christian family

A Christian family was attacked in a village in the province of Mardin, in southeastern Turkey, shortly before a religious service on Sunday June 5.

The service at the Assyrian Church in Mor Gevargis, Brahîmîye village, was the first held in the building in nearly 100 years, after renovations began in 2015.

The Yilmaz family – the only Assyrian family living in the village – was attacked in their home by a group of around 50 Muslims. The family received at the time visiting clergy who came to officiate in the service.

A service was held at Mor Gevargis Church, Brahîmîye village for the first time in nearly a century [Image credit: Süryaniler]

The attackers were led by a Muslim family with whom the Yilmaz family has had a long-standing land dispute.

The mob attacked the house with stones, sticks and other weapons. They then set fire to the wheat grown by the Yilmaz family. No family members were injured and the fire was eventually extinguished after witnesses alerted the police.

Some Muslim family members were arrested in connection with the incident.

“They threatened us,” said Cengiz Yilmaz, “saying that they wouldn’t let us live in the village… But we’re not afraid. We will continue to stay here. He accused the attackers of having specifically chosen the day of the ceremony at the church to reopen the land dispute.

The small remaining Christian community in Turkey is mainly made up of historic Christian ethnic groups such as Assyrians (like the Yilmaz family) and Armenians; they still carry the trauma of the Armenian, Assyrian, Syriac and Greek genocides of the early 20th century. During these genocides, at least 3.75 million believers were killed by the Ottoman Turks, with many attacks taking place in southeastern Turkey.

There are also a small number of Turkish converts to Islam.

In August 2021, an Assyrian Christian village in northern Syria was bombed by the Turkish Air Force during a campaign against Kurdish militants.

Give thanks for the reopening of the historic Brahîmîye church. Pray for the safety of the Yilmaz family and for a fair resolution of the land dispute. Ask for the protection and spiritual strength of the Christian minority in Turkey and Syria.