Saturday, January 24, 2009

FACTBOX: Christians in Turkey

FACTBOX: Christians in Turkey | International | Reuters
Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim but hosts several ancient Christian communities -- dwindling remnants of sizeable populations that prospered for centuries in the Muslim-led but multi-ethnic, multi-faith Ottoman Empire.

They include Syriac Christians, Greek Orthodox, Armenians and Catholics. Modern Turkey was founded as a secular republic by Kemal Mustafa Ataturk on the empire's ashes in 1923.

Here are some details about Christians in Turkey:


-- At the beginning of World War One, Christians still made up 20 percent of the population. However in May 1915, Ottoman commanders began mass deportation of Armenians from eastern Turkey thinking they might assist Russian invaders.

-- Thousands were marched from the Anatolian borders toward Syria and Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and Armenians say some 1.5 million died either in massacres or from starvation or deprivation as they were marched through the desert. There are some 70,000 Armenians left in Turkey. Turkey says large numbers of both Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks were killed during the violent and chaotic break-up of the Ottoman Empire. The number of Christians has now fallen to around 100,000 in a total population of more than 70 million.

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