The majority Muslim country has granted an Istanbul Syriac community to begin work on the church later in 2015. It is believed the church will be the first non-Muslim place of worship built in the country since 1923.
Istanbul, the country’s largest city, is already the location for several Christian minorities, including Greek Orthodox, Armenians and Catholics. This new church however will be the first of its kind to cater for the Syriac community, a minority of less than 20,000 people who follow their own sect of Orthodox Christianity.
The term Syriac is used to describe a form Syrian Christianity that grew out of Eastern Orthodoxy. Despite being a very tiny minority, Syriac followers have existed in the country for hundreds of years. Numbers however have grown in recent years with an influx of Syrian and Iraqi followers moving into Turkey following the Syrian civil war and persecution from Islamic State fundamentalists.
The decision to grant rights to the religious minority has been welcomed as a historic and progressive decision by many. Despite being a secular state Turkish authorities have often been approved of supporting Islam over other beliefs in their rulings and decisions.
News of the Church’s plans follows a several events around Turkey that have demonstrated growing cooperation between Islamic and Christian groups. In a recent visit to the country by Pope Francis the head of the Catholic Church called for an end to the persecution of Christians in Islamic State-controlled areas that was openly supported by many Turks.
Many changes have been seen in Turkish society as Turks grow more open and accepting of religious minorities. Some believe that a desire by young people to move towards a more multicultural form of society is encouraging government to its change policies while others cite the decline of conservative Islamic groups as a sign of a more liberal and tolerant society.