MARDIN– An elderly Turkish Muslim woman has devoted herself to taking care of an ancient Armenian church, and she has been doing this for years, seeking God’s blessings.
“I do it for Allah’s blessing. It is a good deed after all. I am here every day,” Hatun Çaçur told Daily Sabah on April 10.
The 80-year-old mother of eight refuses to hand over the daily cleaning and maintenance of Surp Kevork church, which dates back to the 17th century.
The church in Derik, a district of the southeastern city of Mardin known for its multi-faith population, was almost abandoned after the last remaining members of the Armenian community left in the 1980s.
Apart from simple cleaning, she occasionally works in the church’s courtyard, trimming underbrush, watering flowers and caring for trees.
She took upon herself this new mission, taking care of the church built on 1,500 square meters, immediately after the elderly couple, tasked with its upkeep, fell ill.
“Yurşalin and her husband Naif used to clean it and keep it tidy, but now they are ill and cannot leave home as much. I didn’t want this place to be abandoned to its fate,” Çaçur said.
Though Çaçur suffers from illnesses due to old age and has lived alone since her husband’s death, she refuses to leave the premises unattended.
A similar effort is done in Palestine where two Muslim families have been taking care of Christians’ most sacred site in Al-Quds (Occupied Jerusalem) for centruies, setting an example of peaceful coexistence in the city of peace.
Turkey’s Armenian community numbers around 60,000 and has 33 churches across Turkey.
However, most churches do not have congregations, especially those in the Anatolian heartland and cities far from Istanbul, the city with the highest Armenian population.
The minority, resettled outside modern-day Turkey during World War I, considerably shrunk in the ensuing decades.