Monday, October 24, 2011

Armenians claim roots in Diyarbakır

A group of Armenians, raised as Sunni Muslims, will be baptized today as Armenian Orthodox christians at the historic St. Giragos (Surp Giragos) Armenian Church in Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır.

The church, which was reopened on Oct. 22 following two years of restoration work, will host the baptism ceremony for dozens of Sunni Muslims of Armenian origin, whose ancestors converted to Islam after the 1915 killings in the Ottoman era.

Among those to be baptized is Gaffur Türkay, who also contributed to the restoration of the church. Türkay was going through emotional fluctuations, he told the Hürriyet Daily News.

“I wish this church had always been open,” he said. “It is unbelievable to be together here with people from all around the world with whom I share the same origins.”

“We have been ostracized by both Sunni Muslims and Armenians,” said Behçet Avcı, also known as Garod Sasunyan, who will also be baptized. “It is a very emotional moment for me and I’m a bit upset, because unfortunately we do not belong to either side.”

The baptism ceremony, which will be closed to the press and outside visitors, will be held today at the St. Giragos Armenian Church and will be led by Deputy Patriarch Archbishop Aram Ateşyan. The names of those to be baptized will not be revealed for security reasons.

A religious service was held yesterday at the church, one day after it was re-opened following the completion of the restoration work.

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