MEETING: Antalya Mayor Alaaddin Yüksel (R) speaks at the ALTSO meeting. İHA photo
Antalya Gov. Alaaddin Yüksel has expressed support for Russian expatriates’ idea of building a church in Alanya, a popular holiday district of the Mediterranean city.
“Start the necessary enterprises and leave the legal procedures to us,” Yüksel told Anjelika Anzhela, the chairwoman of the Alanya Russian Language Speakers Association, or ARDİD, while attending one of a series of meetings as a guest of the Alanya Chamber of Commerce and Industry, or ALTSO.
During his visit to Alanya, the governor met with tourism agencies, representatives of non-governmental organizations and heads of departments at the ALTSO conference hall. Sadık Badak, Antalya deputy for the Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and Hüseyin Yıldız, Antalya deputy for the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, also attended the meeting, at which Alanya District Gov. Hulusi Doğan explained some of the problems facing the district.
The demand for a church came up during a question-and-answer session at the meeting when Anzhela said there are more than 3,000 Russians residing in Alanya and they need a church.
“One of our major problems is the lack of a church for us,” the ARDİD chairwoman said. “We don’t want to worship at home. We want a church where we can go.”
Anzhela said the group had learned that there were two churches in the Alanya Castle, but that they were no longer in use.
“We have come to know that we can put these churches into service with the help of the Ministry of Culture and you,” she said.
Ready for cooperation
Noting that Turkey is a secular country, Yüksel gave a literary response to her question.
“Dostoyevsky said he imagined a city in which, when he was fed up with his house and would go to the parks and gardens, he would feel as if he was going to his living room,” the governor said. “Alanya is such a city for you. In respect to religion, Antalya is a window opening onto the world. We don’t take note of the colors of people’s religions, clothes and lives in this city. We only wish for people to keep up with the city’s culture."
Yüksel said some foreigners had previously applied to build a church in Antalya.
“We allowed their charity,” he said. “Meet and take your action, we are ready to make all kinds of contributions.”
The governor said there are more than 70,000 mosques in Turkey, most of which were not built by the government.
“Seven Turkish citizens meet and establish a charity and build a mosque. If you make such a contribution to Alanya, we are ready to provide you with all kinds of support,” he said. “If you attempt to build a church, I will also ask for the help of local administrators and make a contribution.”
The governor said money had been delivered three years ago for the restoration of a church in Alanya Castle.
“We also contribute here and can transfer some money from the Culture Ministry and give support to you,” Yüksel said. “Be calm and make your preparations.”
Alanya Museum Director Seher Türkmen, however, said the church in Alanya Castle is a first-degree archaeological urban and natural site and may not be used as a church now.
“There are five churches in this area. However, these churches belong to the Orthodox Christian religion and are registered historical artifacts,” she said. “Before they are repaired, archaeological excavations should be performed. Our reconstruction plan for protection does not include the subject of using these areas as churches.”
Alanya Mayor Hasan Sipahioğlu, a member of the AKP, disagreed, saying that one of the historical churches could be used.
“The ministries of domestic affairs and foreign affairs have made a positive decision that they can be used as a church without discriminating between religions,” he said.
ANTALYA - İhlas News Agency