Surb Khach had also sparked a divisive debate between2005 and 2007, when its renovation was nanced by theurkish government. Te Armenian media was rie withspeculation that urkey was actually destroying the Arme-nian elements o the church under the guise o restoration,and it was suggested that the “advertisement o goodwill”in the Surb Khach case was distracting attention romthe destruction o other Armenian churches in Anatolia.Te drama-ridden coverage included assertions that the“blasting o Armenian churches” was a commonplaceoccurrence in urkish military exercises. urkey’s motiva-tion or renovating Surb Khach and holding an openingceremony in March 2007 was seen, at best, as a “showcase o tolerance” meant or the European Union. At the same time,the adornment o the ceremony site with urkish ags wasseen as an insult to Armenians.
Indeed, the renovation o one church and the holding o services there once a year obviously does not suce as asolution to the many problems between urks and Arme-nians. Te good news is that this is merely one o many ongoing eorts aimed at overcoming the long-troubledrelationship urkey has had with its Christian minorities.Even better, the change is being spearheaded by intellec-tuals, NGOs, and various local constituencies. In August,the Greek Orthodox Soumela monastery in northeasternurkey held its rst service since 1923. Te Surb GiragosChurch in Diyarbakir is being restored by Armenians inurkey thanks to legislation passed in 2008, marking the
Information in this paragraph is based on analysis of Armenian media and politicaldebates conducted by ESI staff in 2007.
rst time a ruined Armenian church is being returned toservice in an area with virtually no remaining Armeniancommunity. Tese and other similar examples are evidenceo a sense o change and growing momentum on this ront.Constructive dialogue between the urkish authoritiesand representatives o Christian minorities has steppedup, reedom o expression on previously taboo issues hasincreased, and there are ongoing eorts to crack down oncriminal assaults and assassinations o Christians in recentyears. However, there is still much to be done beore thisprogress can be consolidated, and the act that develop-ments on this ront are still in ux is all the more reasonwhy a responsible and constructive debate is crucial.
Grounds for Suspicion
Among other things, the mass at Surb Khach also revealedstubborn patterns o behavior in Ankara that continue tocast shadows over opportunities to set a new mood andbuild condence. Te announcement only days beore theliturgy that the church’s 2-2.5 meter iron cross would notbe installed atop the dome in time or the service raisedmany questions. Te reason provided — technical dicul-ties — did not satisy most interested parties.
One thingthat should be clear to urkish authorities by now is thatambiguity does not serve them well when it comes to Arme-nian-urkish aairs. Although it was nally installed on thechurch on October 1
, the delay, and the possible politicalconsiderations behind it, ended up stealing the show. In anenvironment where deep distrust and over-analysis turn the
Turkish authorities explained that more time was required because of the difculties
associated with working on a protected heritage site, including the bureaucracy involved
in recreating original features and hiring someone to afx the heavy cross (among thewide range of gures, 76 kg is the lowest reported, while 110 kg is the most common in
The renovation of one churchand the holding of services thereonce a year obviously does not
sufce as a solution to the many
problems between Turks andArmenians.Constructive dialogue between the Turkish authorities andrepresentatives of Christianminorities has stepped up.