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Tagarchief: mor gabriël


qum Moran men auw qabro, eido brikho al kulkhun, Our Lord has risen from the grave, a blessed Easter to all of you. Here is yesterday’s story.

This shabto d-shulyo (lit. ‘Saturday of Silence’, Holy Saterday in the RC tradition) was a remarkable day. For the first time in more than 30 years a large group of Aramaic christians visited the Mor Augin monastery on Mount Izlo. The monastery was founded by Mor Augin, the saint that came to Tur Abdin from Egypt and with his followers established monasticism in the region. The monastery is one of the many places of worship they build in Tur Abdin. Two years ago raban (monk) Yoken and raban Aho got the keys and started renovating and rehabilitating yet another pearl on the neklace of this ancient treasure chamber. With them the christian villagers of nearby villages of Marbobo, Gremira and Kritho d-Ito joined hands and formed a new comittee to support their efforts. The buses barely could maneuver the steep road that winds up the ridge. We had to walk the last 500 meters. With each step I took, more of my breath was taken away by the splendid edifices hewn and build on the mountain. The Pilgrim has again reached a destination.

We were received by the two monks and people from the villages previously mentioned. A storm changed the plan slightly so we got a tour of the place first and seated for lunch later. Raban Yoken gave us a brief history of the monastery, its churches and the tombs holding the graves of Mor Augin and various saints and patriarchs. The construction of the altar is unique and it is believed that the wooden beams supporting the roof of the altar were once part of Noah’s Ark. Various universities already offered assistance in researching this claim. After this introduction and some words of gratitude 150 voices sang Abun d-beshmayo (Our Father) in aramaic. Upon leaving the church I could still hear the prayer echoed by the thirteen meters high vaulted ceiling.

Outside I tried to take a moment of silence to really breath in the place. What struck me was how many noises were around me. It took some concentration to filter out the talk of men and hear the songs of birds and the rustling of the wind as it graced over the mountain. I closed my eyes for a moment and when I opened them again I noticed the warde d-nison, (lit. ‘flowers of April’, poppies in English). I already saw a lot of them growing in the fields around Midyat but here they seem to defy nature and grow out of cracks in the rocks. Many books have been written with the ink made from this flower. When I thought I could feel the mountain itself breathing I was called to lunch. Was it my imagination or the feeling of the want of food that was made known to my brain by my growling stomach? We enjoyed an excellent lunch prepared by the good people of the villages, I can even say the love that was put in making it fed our souls. It was rumoured that it took them a week to prepare. We had to walk the whole way down but I dare to say that not a single person did not turn his or her head around to have one, two or more final looks at Mor Augin. A view words cannot describe.

In the evening we visited the center of Syrian Orthodoxy, the Mor Gabriel monastery. Founded in 397 it stands on a hilltop overlooking hundreds of olive trees. Although it housed saints, bishops, monks and thousands of student ever since, it is now struggeling for its survival. It is sued to the courts by the treasury department and nearby villages claiming its lands and the destruction of the surrounding walls. Again the tourists were preoccupied with taking pictures and chatter as I was looking for a place to clear my mind and just not think of anything. It was not easy because the path of the Pilgrim crossed that of the tourists in the church of the Virgin Mary, the Dome of Theodora, the Church of Mor Gabriel, the beth qadishe (burial tomb of the saints). Finally I found a place away from it all and realised how much of our time is taken by activities that do not feed our souls and do not provide peace of mind.

When we returned to our hotel with a small group later that night in Midyat I said to my small fellowship, just be silent and look to the stars. And so it happened that we saw a shooting star for the first time in our lives.

On a side note:

  • We celebrated the birthday of Adam Cello, who turned 26 ( just before seeing the shooting star)
  • When I asked during dinner and later at the small birthday party if anyone noticed that we did not get tlauhé at lunch in Mor Augin everyone replied they did not, and smiled
  • Some people are blaming the rain on the travellers from the Netherlands, Johny Messo turned it around and called it a blessing for the grounds
  • We received training in bargaining from a pro when a traveller from Kerboran gave the store owner a dismal look, turned around, waved the last offer of with his hand and gave a ‘tsssssk’. The sunglasses 10 meters further down the road dropped in price by 50%

Read previous: day 3: The Church in distress                Read next: day 5: A Tur Abdin Easter


I feel like the Pilgrim who very well could have had his eyes on Mount Izla when he asked: “I look to the hills: Where will I find help?” Sounds are not carried far in the dust that covers those mountains of old. My mind drifts away and I see the wind drawing images with the sand of monks, traders, pilgrims, shepherds and armies making their way across the plain from the Euphrates to the Tigris. The dry red earth has been scorched by the sun for centuries, I feel a cool breeze as the heavy red sun is descending towards the horizon. It is setting the stage for the treacherous nights when wild animals and highwayman roam free. Over the ridge lies the Mountain of God’s Servants whom for centuries have met the Pilgrim and answered him: “It will come from the Lord, who created the heavens and the earth.”

It was during my first visit to Tur Abdin five years ago when I was looking at the ridge forming Mount Izla from the rooftop of a house in Kritho d-Ito (Gunduksukru). It was our second day in our home land after spending the first night in the monastery of the Virgin Mary in Diyarbakir. I remember that I could almost feel the stories I read and heard about: The stories of my grandparents about working hard from dawn to dusk and the stories of my parents about growing up with little opportunities but always valuing what they had. Also I was anxious to visit the monasteries where our languague, culture and heritage have been taught for ages and are still very much alive there. Eventhough most of our people have left after numerous hardships and troubeling times I could still feel a presence that must have been a part of the very lands. It did not show itself but made itself heard to the soul: “He will not let you stumble. He who protects you doesn’t doze or ever get drowsy. He is the protector of Israel, and your protector.” And I knew that we did not have to feel afraid during the following days when we would venture into the lands that even for my parents were feeling awkward to tread on: “Maybe it was better that the village would only be preserved in the memories of my childhood”, said my father as he was standing on the plot of land where once my grandfather’s house stood. I could understand his feelings, as the whole place was kind of desolate, save for a stray chicken, and felt eerie in the orange glow of the setting sun. “The Lord shall shade you with His right hand, the sun will not strike you by day, nor the moon at night.” Was it my father saying that, my imagination or that ever present feeling that the lands were more than just rocks, dust, the occasional tree or shrub and the little springs that are still permitted to flow and support life?

As I am preparing for my second visit to Tur Abdin, there are a lot of questions crossing my mind: “what will it be like to celebrate Easter over there? How will the people receive us? How can we celebrate when hundreds of our people have been killed and thousands displaced during the current war in Syria? How will the refugees perceive us? What will the weather be like and what clothes should I take with me? Already the temperature is nearing 30 degrees celsius in Mardin. The monasteries are filled with refugees and our Patriarch has cancelled all Easter celebrations because of the situation in Syria and the abduction of two bishops. Still I can’t supress feelings of joy as I look forward to this trip a long time now. I hope that our spiritual journey will also give the refugees peace and hope for the future. That they, just like the people of Tur Abdin who have stayed and maintained what little was left, won’t feel abandoned in this world. That we, together with them, can find comfort in the song of the pilgrim: “The Lord will save your soul, he preserves your going out and coming in from this time and for all ages.”

If time and internet connections permit I will post from Tur Abdin to this weblog, we should be aware that we live in a time that again could shift the course of the future of our people and church. I wish all of you a joyous Easter with your family and friends.

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Deze verwijzing naar het Grieks-orthodoxe seminarie in Istanbul geeft in essentie het betoog van Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) weer tijdens zijn motivatie voor de initiatiefnota over het Mor Gabriël klooster. Door verschillende rechtszaken aangespannen door de Turkse staat en dorpen in de omgeving dreigen landerijen en bezittingen onteigend te worden en wordt het de kloosterlingen nog moeilijker gemaakt om er nog te wonen en te werken.  In de nota doet Omtzigt een vijftal aanbevelingen om de dreiging van sluiting van dit eeuwenoude klooster af te wenden:

  1. Samen met Turkije voorstellen om het Mor Gabriel klooster en zijn landerijen in de oorspronkelijke omvang te beschermen en voor te dragen voor de werelderfgoedlijst van UNESCO en af te spreken dat het, net als andere moskeeën en kerken op de lijst, in gebruik blijft als godshuis.
  2. In het kader van 400 jaar contact tussen Nederland en Turkije organiseren beide landen een gezamenlijk bezoek op hoog niveau aan het Mor Gabriel klooster.
  3. Nederland zet in de Raad van Ministers van de Raad van Europa het Mor Gabriel klooster en zijn rechten op de agenda, naar aanleiding van de niet uitgevoerde resolutie 1704/2010 en verzoekt Turkije ten minste een antwoord te formuleren op de gevraagde verbeteringen.
  4. Nederland zet in de Raad van Ministers van de Europese Unie het Mor Gabriel klooster en zijn rechten en onteigende gronden op de agenda, naar aanleiding van de nieuwe wet op stichtingen, die wel nieuwe rechten geeft aan de ‘Lausanne’ minderheden en niet aan de Syrisch-orthodoxe gemeenschap.
  5. De Nederlandse regering schrijft een formele amici-brief aan het Hof in Straatsburg ter ondersteuning van het Mor Gabriel klooster in de door haar aangespannen zaken en ter bescherming van religieuze eigendommen.

In een eerste schriftelijke reactie van minister Rosenthal werden de aanbevelingen maar gedeeltelijk omarmd. Bovendien leek de minister er weinig concrete acties aan te koppelen dus was het aan de Tweede Kamer om hier uitspraken over te doen. Tijdens de bespreking in de commissie Buitenlandse Zaken werd duidelijk dat er brede steun en waardering is voor de nota en de indiener. Concreet werden een aantal moties door de verschillende partijen ingediend. De PVV roept de regering op om alles in het werk te stellen om dreigende sluiting te voorkomen. De gebruikelijke kritiek ten aanzien van Turkije werd door meerdere onderschreven. De partij werd er echter op gewezen dat zij zowel in Nederland bij contacten met Turkse parlementariërs als bij bezoeken van Turkse ministers en diplomaten aan de Europese Unie niet aanwezig is en nooit daar haar steun aan bijvoorbeeld het klooster kenbaar heeft gemaakt. Dit werd ook door het lid Kortenoeven als een gemiste kans gezien. Kathleen Ferrier diende namens het CDA een motie in die Nederland oproept om actief beleid te voeren op het  verbeteren van de positie van christenen in Turkije en het beschermen van het culturele erfgoed. Deze werd door de minister onderschreven en kon op brede steun rekenen zo het zich liet aanzien. Bovendien stelde zij vast dat EU in gesprekken met Turkije over toetreding het Mor Gabriël een nadrukkelijke plaats moet krijgen: “Het staat nu symbool voor alles wat er mis is op het terrein van mensenrechten.”  Naast deze moties diende de SGP er een in die de minister oproept om in de Raad van Ministers het verenigingsrecht in Turkije te agenderen, ook deze lijkt op veel steun te kunnen rekenen hoewel de minister er niet zo happig op was om zaken zo nadrukkelijk op een hoog niveau te bespreken.  De Christenunie was kritisch richting de minister en stelde vast dat Nederland een veel actievere houding mag aannemen. Ook de SP en PvdA spraken hun steun uit voor de nota en van Bommel (SP) vond dat als andere minderheden (Grieken en Armeniërs) wel een officiële status hebben dit ook zou moeten gelden voor de Suryoye in Turkije.

In zijn reactie tijdens de vergadering en later voor de camera van SuryoyoSat stelde Pieter Omtzigt vast dat er een grote kans is dat Nederland concrete acties zal verbinden aan de nota. Het klooster is een belangrijk deel van het cultuur historisch erfgoed van de wereld en het mag niet gebeuren dat sluiting of beperking van de activiteiten er toe leidt dat de christelijke minderheid in Zuidoost Turkije effectief ophoudt te functioneren. Daarom is het van belang dat Nederland op meerdere niveau’s, zowel in Europa als in Turkije, actief laat zien dat zij voor behoud van het klooster is en de rechtszaken moeten stoppen. Door samen te werken met onder andere Duitsland en Zweden (wat al vorm begint te krijgen) kan de druk op Turkije verder opgevoerd worden.

De stemming over de moties staat nog niet op de agenda, zet de RSS feed in de browser aan om op de hoogte te blijven van nieuwe ontwikkelingen. Via onderstaande links zijn de nota en andere bronnen over het Mor Gabriël klooster te raadplegen.

De nota zelf
Dossier Mor Gabriel en rechten van minderheden in Turkije
Officiële site van het klooster (engels, turks, aramees)
WikiPedia pagina over het klooster
Soortgelijke initatieven in Duitsland (duits)