The Surp Yerrortutyun (Holy Trinity) Armenian church in central Turkey’s Akşehir district is to serve as the “World’s Masters of Humor Art House” as part of a project to found a “humor village” in the hometown of famous 13th century Turkish satirist Nasreddin Hoca, the Agos newspaper reported.
The church was built in 1859 in the neo-classical style and was registered as a cultural heritage site in 1975 by Turkey’s Ministry of Culture. It was recently restored at a cost of TL 3.5 million ($470,000).
Nasreddin Hoca is known for stories with subtle humor of a pedagogic nature. The “humor village” project is being carried out by the Konya Regional Development Administration and includes 204 historic buildings. It is not known when the church will be opened in its new capacity.
According to the report by Ferda Balancar, some 5,000 Armenians lived in the Akşehir district of Konya prior to 1915.
US-based advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC) criticized the move, saying Turkey has not made any attempt to return abandoned churches to their original Christian community.
“Instead, Turkey either converts these churches into mosques or restores their buildings into faith tourism sites. When pursuing the [latter] option, Turkey uses it as an example to the international arena about how they care for religious freedom,” the group said. “However, it is a point which confuses religious freedom with faith tourism. The state reaps the monetary rewards of having churches restored into cultural sites and museums. Any remaining Christian community is forced to petition the state for access to these sites for worship purposes.”