Turkey's ancient Assyrian community is counting down the days until construction starts on their church, which will mark the first time one is built from scratch in decades. Construction work of the Assyrian Orthodox Church in Yeşilköy, Istanbul will start soon and the community expects President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to take part in the foundation-laying ceremony. Sait Susin, chairman of the foundation that will build the church, said Erdoğan has always been supportive of their plans to build the church and they would be honored to have him lay the foundation.
Erdoğan, under his tenure as prime minister and president, has been credited for reforms for religious minorities, to help them regain their rights, including the return of properties that were unfairly seized from minorities in the past.
A string of controversial policies toward minorities dating back to the early years of the Turkish Republic, stifled their rights and led to a decline in church attendance as many migrated abroad over the years due to policies of suppression.
"This will be our first church here and it will be a first in the history of the Republic. If the president comes to the foundation-laying ceremony, he will be the first president to approve the construction of a church and personally starting its construction," Susin said.