First Armenian religious service held in İzmir in 95 years while a church awaits permission for maintanence in İstanbul

Armenians in İzmir attended a religious service at St. John’s Basilica for the first time in 95 years after a fire damaged it in 1922 while a church which was hit by storm in İstanbul awaits permission to get repaired.

Cleric Vartan Kazancıyan and his assistant Agop Minasyan presided over the religious service attended by 150 people,  the Cumhuriyet daily reported on Tuesday. Verses from Bible were read and a sermon was delivered in Armenian as well as Turkish. The choir of İstanbul Surp Hovhan Vosgerepan Armenian Catholic Church sang at the church inauguration. The service was attended by local Levantines, Christians and Muslims.

Minasyan expressed his pleasure over the attendance of so many people and said similar ceremonies should take place at certain times of the year.

Meanwhile, an Armenian church in Kuzguncuk neighborhood of İstanbul, where was a multicultural neighborhood in Üsküdar dictrict up until the 1960s, could have not taken permission from Turkey’s Directorate General of Foundations to repair its broken windows caused by last month’s strong storm.

According to a report in Hurriyet daily, the Surp Krikor Lusavoriç Armenian Church is having a hard time these days. The church, dates back to 1835, faces difficulty undergoing maintenance for its broken windows, caused by last month’s storm. The church could not get the permission to repair them. Every time Turkish-Armenians living in the area want to repair the church or paint the exterior, they have to fight against complaints from the neighborhood.

“We have had several raids for inspection for no reason. Somebody complained that we were giving an unlawful religious feast right before Easter, which was under the supervision of priests. The Üsküdar Municipality has a right to hold iftars but we get punished if we serve food under our religious rules. The Directorate General of Foundations knocks on our door every time somebody complains for no reason. We hope they could help us repair our church,” one church source told the Hürriyet daily.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday slammed Turkey for continuing to limit the human rights of members of some religious minority groups. Delivering remarks on the release of the State Department’s 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom (IRF), Tillerson said the Turkish government continues to restrict the freedom of belief of members of religious minorities.

According to the IRF report, non-Muslim minorities in Turkey reported difficulty operating or opening houses of worship, challenging land and property disputes, and obtaining exemptions from mandatory religious classes. The government restricted minority religious groups from training clergy and continued to prosecute individuals for “openly disrespecting the religious belief of a group.” (SCF with

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